Panel Transcript: Remaking The Political Landscape

The Impact of Illegal and Legal Immigration on Congressional Apportionment

Related: Report


Mark Krikorian, Executive Director, Center for Immigration Studies


Dudley L. Poston, Jr., Professor of Sociology, Texas A&M University

Steven Camarota, Director of Research, Center for Immigration Studies

Noah M. J. Pickus, Director, Institute for Emerging Issues, North Carolina State University

MARK KRIKORIAN: Good morning. My name is Mark Krikorian. I am executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank here in town that examines and critiques the impact of immigration on the United States. All our work, by the way, is online at our website,

And to talk about our newest research, we have two of the three co-authors, and then one respondent to discuss its implications. The – there were three co-authors. One of them was not able to make it. Amanda Baumle, who is a doctoral candidate in sociology and J.D., an attorney I understand, was not able to make the panel, but the other two authors – co-authors are here. And the first one will be Dudley Poston.

Dudley L. Poston, Jr. is a professor of sociology at Texas A&M, and also the George T. and Gladys H. Abell Professor of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M. He’s president-elect of the Southwestern Social Science Association, and is the one who has put together the mechanics of figuring out this effect of, you know, distribution and the reapportionment of seats in Congress.

The second co-author is Steve Camarota, director of research here at the Center, who has emerged as probably the top voice on – in examining the impact of immigration on the United States.

And the respondent will be Noah Pickus. He is the founding director of the Institute for Emerging Issues, which is based at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, and is author of a forthcoming book, “True Faith and Allegiance: Alien Citizens and the American Nation.”

So what we will do is have all of the speakers say their peace – first Dudley, then Steve, then Noah – and then we will take some Q&A. Dudley?

DUDLEY L. POSTON, JR.: Although the Constitution requires apportionment according to a state’s population, it does not specify the method for apportioning the House, nor does it specify who is to be included in the apportionment population. In the year 2000, Congress used a method known as the method of equal proportions to apportion the House, and this has been in use since 1940. And in the year 2000, the apportionment population was defined as the population residing in the state plus certain individuals living overseas who claimed their state of residence and who are in the military or are federal employees. And this overseas population is a recent admission. It was only included previously in 1970 and in 1990.

So the fact that the composition of the apportionment population was so recently altered demonstrates that it is far from solidified and – despite the passing of hundreds of years. And debates over the manner in which the apportionment population is to be defined have sparked a number of legal challenges over the years. The definition remains controversial, primarily because of the enormity of the political ramifications behind this seemingly stale piece of law. Relatively small changes in the apportionment population can make the difference in acquiring an additional seat or an additional two seats for a state in the House. 

So what we have done at Texas A&M – Amanda Baumle and I have developed a number of scenarios in which we define differently the apportionment population. And working with Steve Camarota, we have focused here this morning on three of these scenarios in which we define the apportionment population of each state in three different ways, depending upon issues dealing with immigration.

I should say just for a moment, briefly, the apportionment method – every state gets one seat automatically, so that means there are only 385 seats left to distribute. And the – there’s a – it’s a method that was developed back around the turn of the century, the method of equal proportions. It has been argued that it has not been fair to large states, but I won’t be talking about that this morning. The method of equal proportions has been used since 1940.

So one likely area of contention about the definition of the apportionment population pertains to including immigrants. Immigrants have a significant impact on the population size of many states, and as a result, affect the apportionment of the House. Over 10 percent of U.S. residents are foreign-born, compared to only 5 percent in 1970, and the unauthorized immigrant population is estimated at about 7 million people, with most of them living in California, Texas, New York, and living in Florida. 

The fact that the distribution of political power among the states is so much due – is due in part to the size of the immigrant population – has prompted some to argue that portions of the immigrant population, such as the illegals or such as non-citizens or maybe even all foreign-born, could be excluded from the apportionment population, and then see what would happen to the distribution in the House of the seats. And with the increase of anti-immigrant sentiment in the 1990s, as evidenced by legislation in California and Florida seeking to prevent immigrants from receiving a variety of basic government services, the next legal challenge to the apportionment population definition could well involve the inclusion of immigrants. 

There has been some legislation. Briefly in 1979, FAIR – the Federation of American Immigration Reform – sued to enjoin the Census Bureau from counting illegal immigrants. The courts dismissed the case because they argued the plaintiffs lacked standing as individuals who were personally harmed, so the merits of the argument were not settled. So this is not just a scholarly exercise that we engaged in.

So let’s look at these three scenarios. The first and the most drastic one would be to remove all foreign-born members from the apportionment population. The second would exclude non-citizens, and the third would exclude illegal immigrants. Some of these are extreme and perhaps are unlikely to translate into actual change in the apportionment population, but these scenarios do provide insight into the manner in which immigration has impacted and continues to impact the apportionment of representatives.

So, if we use data from the 2000 Census on the numbers of foreign-born people residing in each state, we subtract those people from the reapportionment population – or from the states’ population, we add in the overseas because that’s part of the – that’s part of the number, and we then reapportion the House the 385 seats that are to be apportioned. If we do this, there’s a 16-seat change in the 2000 apportionment. California loses nine of its 53 seats. This means that nine of California’s 53 seats are attributable to its immigrant population, and actually it’s more than nine because those immigrants – when they arrive in our country, immigrants have children. The children are born in the U.S. and they’re then counted as – not as foreign-born. So it’s more than – it’s more than nine seats. So California would be the – is the big gainer, or would be the big loser if the foreign-born were excluded.

What are the partisan implications of this particular – of this particular scenario? You could ask – you could designate states as Republican or Democrat based upon the 2000 Bush-Gore election. If the foreign-born were excluded, the Republicans would gain nine – would gain nine seats.

A second scenario we focused on was excluding illegal immigrants. We used data provided by the Immigration and Naturalization Service that estimates the size of the illegal immigrant population counted in the 2000 Census. We subtracted these numbers from the states, we added in the overseas population, and we reapportioned the House. If you – this – the exclusion of illegal immigrants may well be the scenario most likely to gain popular support and spark a legal challenge, but it’s the most problematic of all of them because of the inherent difficulties in counting illegal immigrants. We’re just using the numbers that were estimated to be counted in the census. 

Nevertheless, this is of some interest, and if you exclude illegal immigrants from the apportionment population, there is a net result change of four seats. California loses three. North Carolina loses one. The states that would gain if you excluded illegal immigrants are Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, and Montana. And finally, the – and by the way, if you excluded illegal immigrants, the Republicans would gain one seat.

Finally, we exclude all non-citizens, as in the first scenario; take out the foreign-born who are not citizens. And this results in a change of nine seats. California again experiences the greatest loss. It would lose six of its 53 seats. And Florida, New York, and Texas would each lose one because of their large immigrant populations, and thus large non-citizen populations. And Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Wyoming, they would each gain a seat under this scenario. Republican states under this scenario would gain three seats.

So of the four – of the three scenarios we focused on, the one involving the exclusion of the illegal immigrant population might be the scenario most likely to prompt future legal action, and it’s interesting to note that this particular scenario has the smallest impact of the three I’m talking about this morning with regard to the 2000 apportionment. California is the state most affected by the removal of any portion of the immigrant population. 

California is the home of some of the most liberal legislators in the nation. States or political groups interested in lessening California’s liberal political influence in the U.S. might find the exclusion of some portion of the immigrant population from the apportionment base to be advantageous. And since the Supreme Court has yet to rule on the merits of the exclusion – the merits of the exclusion of any portion of the immigrant population, this door also remains open for legal action. Thank you.


STEVEN CAMAROTA: Thank you, Mark. Now, as Dudley has pointed out, they had three different scenarios. Let me start with illegal immigration first, probably because that has the smallest impact.

And has Dudley has mentioned, Indiana, Michigan, and Mississippi each have lost one seat because of the inclusion of illegal aliens in other states – that is, these are illegal aliens who basically sent their census forms back – and Montana failed to gain a seat it otherwise would have gained. Now, for the specific states involved, the impact of illegal immigration is certainly substantial. Had Montana gained another seat, it would have doubled its representation in the House. The one seat lost by Mississippi represented one-fifth of its congressional delegation. And for Indiana, the one seat lost was one-tenth of its representation. 

Now, it must be remembered that the political influence of a state in Washington is partly dependent on the size of that state’s delegation. Thus, illegal immigration is not just redistributing the in the abstract seats, it’s actually redistributing political power. And of course, immigration or illegal immigration or immigration in general has the same effect on the Electoral College because the Electoral College is based on the size of congressional delegations as well. 

Now, turning to non-citizens – and here we’re including those who are here illegally – we found that nine seats were redistributed; that is four by illegals, roughly five in some ways when you – additional seats are redistributed when you count all non-citizens. The census counted 18.5 million non-citizens. Roughly, as we said – as Dudley pointed out – about 7 million are thought to be illegal aliens. About 1 million, it turns out, are people on long-term temporary visas, mainly foreign workers and guests – foreign students and guest workers, and the rest are legal permanent residents who haven’t become citizens. Now, the nine seats redistributed by non-citizens is a very significant effect when one considers that only a total of 12 seats in their entirety changed hands in 2000. 

And then, as Dudley pointed out, when you look at all of the foreign-born, it redistributes a total of 16 seats. Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin each have one less seat because of total immigration, and Pennsylvania, interestingly enough – my home state – has two fewer seats. Now, this can only be described as a very significant impact on the political landscape. Now of course, what listing those states tells us also is the impact is very diffuse; many states are affected. 

In contrast, the states that gain are very concentrated. Looking, say, just at non-citizens or looking at all immigration, nine of the 16 seats that were redistributed from those 15 other states went to just California. Now politically, issues that create diffuse costs tend to be overlooked because it requires all those with a shared interest – in this case, the low-immigration states – to realize their shared interest and then to act on it. Moreover, the fact that the impact of immigration is only felt every 10 years, when seats are reapportioned, almost certainly reduces interest in the issue as well. Nevertheless, the impact is large and will continue to grow as immigration grows; that is, if we keep immigration policies in place, immigration will continue to redistribute seats.

Now of course, if the foreign-born were evenly spread out through the country, then they would have no impact on the distribution of seats. However, during every great wave of immigration in American history, like the one we’re going through now, the foreign-born have clustered in a few states and then moved out to the rest of the country only very slowly. This process is a gradual one, and the foreign-born, legal or illegal, will continue to remain very concentrated for decades. 

In 1990 for example, the top six states with foreign-born settlement account for 73 percent of the foreign-born. In 2000, the top six states account for 69 percent. Thus, the foreign-born has become more dispersed, and there has been a lot of news coverage of that, but not really dramatically so. 

We also see the persistent pattern of concentration by looking at longtime residents. These are people who have been in the United States from other countries, but have been here for a long time. Two-thirds of the foreign-born in 2000 who indicated that they had lived in the United States for more than 20 years still lived in just six states. Although the foreign-born will almost certainly continue to move out into new parts of the country, the fact is that for decades to come, they will continue to remain very large, very largely concentrated, with some states having lots of foreign-born and some states having very few, and this is true for legals or illegals.

Now, although the political stakes for low-immigration states from continued record levels of immigration are clearly very significant, there is the related question of creating districts for non-citizens, and this I think is a very important question. This makes immigrant-induced reapportionment different from reapportionment caused when natives relocate to other states because immigration takes away representation from states composed almost entirely of U.S. citizens so that new districts can be created in states with large non-citizen populations. While there is or ought to be a consensus that naturalized American citizens should be represented in Congress just like any other American, awarding states congressional seats for their non-citizen population raises important questions about political representation. 

Just to give you an example, in the nine states that lost a seat because of the presence of non-citizens, only one out of 50 residents is a non-citizen. In contrast, one in seven residents in California is a non-citizen, the state which picked up six of those nine seats. The problem is even worse in some districts. According to the latest data – this is from 2002 census data, the data that the Census Bureau collected – 43 percent of the population in California’s immigrant-heavy 33rd District is comprised of non-U.S. citizens, and in the 31st District, it’s 38 percent. Contrast that with a state like Indiana, where only about one or 2 percent of the population in each district is a non-citizen. California is not alone. In Florida’s 21st District, 28 percent of the population is not a citizen. And in New York’s 12th District, 23 percent is not a – is not a citizen. 

The large number of non-citizens creates a real tension with the principle of one man, one vote because it takes so few votes to win these immigrant-heavy districts. In 2002 for example, it took almost 100,000 votes to win the typical congressional state in the four states that lost due to illegal immigration – and that’s true really of the nine states that lost because of non-citizens – while it took less than 35,000 votes to win the 31st and 33rd Districts of California, almost a three-to-one ratio. In effect, what happens is the people who live in districts with lots of non-citizens, their votes count three times as much – in this example – as people who live in districts with very few citizens – with very few non-citizens. 

This issue becomes even more controversial when one considers that a large share, of course, of the non-citizen population – roughly one-third – are illegal aliens, and another 1 million are temporary residents such as foreign students and guest workers. While one can at least argue that legal immigrants who have not naturalized are still entitled to representation in Congress because they are future Americans, illegal aliens and temporary visitors can make no such claim.

What to do about this problem? It may be tempting to think that the problem of reduced political representation for American citizens can be solved by excluding non-citizens from census counts. However, doing so faces enormous hurdles. Excluding non-citizens would first require specific congressional legislation authorizing it, and any political debate on this issue would be extremely acrimonious. It would also require Congress to instruct the Census Bureau to fundamentally change the way the Census itself is administered. 

There is also the question of how accurate responses are on the Census. If persons are to be excluded based on their answers, which is not the case now, accuracy becomes a much larger and more controversial issue. 

In addition, any attempt to exclude non-citizens would have to be ruled constitutional by the courts. At present, it is not clear whether the Constitution requires non-citizens to be counted for purposes of apportionment, but it is clear that any attempt to exclude them would result in many years of litigation. 

Even excluding only illegal aliens, while perhaps more appealing to some, would still be very difficult as a practical matter. The INS and Census Bureau and other outside researchers estimate the number of illegals by comparing the demographic characteristics of those responding to the Census to administrative data on legal immigration. While such methods may produce reasonably accurate estimates of the illegal population overall or in each state, they do not definitively identify individual illegal aliens in the census. Any effort to pick out specific individuals is only a highly educated guess, and educated guesses would certainly not pass constitutional muster with the courts. It is possible that we could ask people whether they are illegal aliens, but the problem is with the accuracy of those responses. Thus, trying to exclude illegal aliens or even all non-citizens may seem like a solution to the problem, but doing so is probably unworkable as a practical matter.

Now, one potential solution to the problem – or at least partial solution – for citizens losing representation is to encourage those who are eligible for citizenship to naturalize. This would certainly be helpful and desirable in my view. Of course, such efforts would not change the basic fact that low-immigration states are still losing political power, however – moreover, even making the most optimistic assumptions about the impact of increased naturalization efforts would still leave an enormous number of non-citizens.

Here’s why: illegal aliens are not eligible for citizenship, nor are long-term temporary visitors. Moreover, as long as 1 million or more new legal immigrants are admitted every year, the non-citizen population will continue to be very large, even if every single new immigrant naturalizes as soon as they reach the five-year time requirement; because if you let in a million people a year, there’s always at least 5 million people who are non-citizens, and that’s assuming everybody naturalizes who can, and of course that would never happen. 

If you take that 5 million and add to it the 7 million illegal aliens in the Census, and add to that the million people who are on temporary visas who are in the Census, you get a very big number. In fact, a recent study by the Urban Institute of naturalization showed that if every single eligible immigrant naturalized tomorrow, there would still have been roughly 15 million non-citizens in 2002. Thus, the problem of citizens losing representation would remain even if naturalization rates increased dramatically.

Given the large number of immigrants allowed into the country and their concentration in a handful of states, it is inevitable that immigration will exact a political cost from those states that receive relatively few immigrants. If we keep current immigration policies in place, our options are very limited. We probably can’t exclude illegal aliens or other non-citizens. Thus, when making decisions regarding immigration policy, policymakers and the public at least have to take into account not only the economic, fiscal, cultural, demographic, and security implications of immigration, but also its political impact, part of which is to take political representation away from American citizens. And it’s important to note that the size of this redistribution away from American citizens is a direct consequence of the level of legal and illegal immigration. Of course, a more moderate level of immigration would produce less immigrant-based reapportionment in the future. 

In effect, the country faces a choice. Either we continue to have record legal and illegal immigration and continue to redistribute seats from states comprised mostly of American citizens to high – away from those states and to high-immigration states with large non-citizen populations, or we can reduce immigration levels. These are basically our two options. There doesn’t seem to be any possibility of somehow fixing the problem after the fact. Thank you.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Steve. Noah?

NOAH M.J. PICKUS: Thank you, Mark and Steve, for inviting me here. I don’t want to talk about the numbers in this report or about the methodology. Those are important, and I want to leave those to demographers and those who know more about that.

It’s clear that whatever the specifics of this data, that there is this broad kind of impact that the report lays out; that the enumeration of non-citizens has the broad political affects on apportionment. And what I think is so good about a report like this, whatever you think about its conclusions, is precisely that it is not so fixated on the narrow issues that we often debate about immigration: the economic impact. As Steve said, it’s looking at a lot of other issues, in particular here the political consequences, which are often downstream from immigration policy. It takes a while to see what they are, and so when we debate immigration policy, we tend not to talk about what might happen 10 or 20 years down the road in society or in politics. We focus on the here and now. Here is a way of seeing what the effect is in many ways, and I think that’s an enormously good thing to do.

What I want to do, however, is take up the implications in this report for what the report says, and what the reapportionment indicates for the meaning of citizenship, both at the state level and national level. For the meaning of citizenship, for the meaning of representation – Steve talked a lot about what this means about representation and the dilution of citizens’ votes – and really about what it means to talk about what it means to be a member of the American people today, and I want to do that in three distinct ways.

First, I want to clarify two different kinds of theories or approaches to representation that one could take in looking at this data. Second thing I want to do is talk about the implication – in many ways, the perverse implications – some mentioned in the report, some not, of the reigning theory of representation that we’re living under. And third, I want to address briefly the question of what if anything one could do about this if you wanted to.

So let me first take up the question of these two – trying to clarify these two different kinds of representation. Bear with me for a moment because I think it matters very much how we look at it. Or to put it up front, I come from North Carolina, which was the – which got the last seat allocated over Utah by – Dudley, how much was it?

MR. POSTON: About 850, I think.

MR. PICKUS: By about 850 enumerated folks in the Census. Let me put it as bluntly as possible: if there are roughly 200,000 illegal aliens counted in North Carolina for Census purposes, and if there is something – don’t quote me on this, but let’s say 15,000 overseas Mormon missionaries who do not – who are not counted in the census, then in effect you have the flip of the seats there. So Mormons who are overseas, serving on a mission, claiming that they have ties to their home, that they are coming back, are not counted in the Census – that’s the current ruling – and illegal aliens are counted in the Census. Net net, North Carolina gains a seat. We win, Utah doesn’t; they lose. There are some implications about who you count and the way this goes.

Now, Steve talks about the one man, one vote, which has a lot of resonance in our history, obviously, having to do in particular with the struggle of black Americans. And the study focuses on the notion that there are loser states here, and that they are harmed both in terms of their political power and the individual citizens within them. But whether they are harmed and who actually is harmed depends on who you think ought to be represented, and here it bears looking at two different approaches. One approach, and you can see this – Judge Alex Kozinski on the 9th Circuit talked about this all the way back to the case in 1990 – focuses on a notion that we the people means we the American citizens. It’s a principle of electoral equality, meaning you ought to do apportionment based on those who are eligible to vote. And that – what that means is that the political power would be equal, citizen to citizen, across the United States, and that there would not be dilution of an individual citizen’s vote in the way Steve talked about it between the – what is it, a California district and an Indiana district?

MR. CAMAROTA: Yeah, 100,000 versus 35,000.

MR. PICKUS: So if you focused on electoral equality in representing – in doing apportionment, then you would get away from this particular problem here. But there are downsides to this which are worth looking at. 

You would exclude from direct representation all those who are ineligible to vote, and it’s worth noting that as far back as the founding – in the Constitution, it talks about enumerating – well, it doesn’t – the language is a little bit opaque, but they did count in the original census – we’re talking about women, children, indentured servants, convicts, the insane, and later aliens. These are, in various ways, members of our community. Maybe in different ways, but they’re members of our community, and a different theory – a theory of representational equality – says they need to have their voices represented even if they’re not going to vote. In other words, you want to do apportionment by the total population, which is what we’re doing here. And the idea here is simple: people who are living here, whether they are legal or illegal aliens, or they are felons, or they – at one point – were women, or they are the insane and were not eligible to vote, ought to be represented. All constituents in this sense as opposed to all citizens ought to be represented and have a chance to have somebody who can speak their – for their voice, and therefore possibly also get them benefits and services.

And it’s well to make sure that we don’t widen the gap between the large number of people who don’t get represented in the country – the governed – and those who are governing, that you try and limit that difference. Given the concerns we have in this country about democratic representation, this would be one way of limiting it.

Now, those are two different approaches, as I said, and the current one is much more in line with the second one, of representational equality, and it’s something that this study by the Center for Immigration Studies clearly lays out some of the consequences of taking that approach. Let me add two consequences, which I think are significant here. The first is straightforward, and it’s important to note that these are consequences that are just – they are implications of the system. They’re not – everyone else is just acting within the system. It’s the way the system is set up to operate and to give people incentives. 

The first is the current approach, which means that states actually have a kind of perverse incentive to increase their non-citizen population. In particular, you could say the more illegal aliens – go back to the North Carolina example. I’m not saying North Carolina sought to do this, but there’s an incentive to have more non-citizens there because you would then get more political seats; you would get more political power. That’s a pretty strange incentive to build into the system, but it’s not actually I think the most perverse one. The more perverse one is that in doing so, we may set up representation in such a way that doesn’t serve representative democracy, doesn’t serve non-citizens very well, and doesn’t serve the incorporation of immigrants into American citizenship. Let me say a little bit about that before moving on to what can we do about this. 

If you have district with large numbers of non-citizens, and this is particularly the case if this is under the Voting Rights Act and you have so-called “majority-minority” districts, there is especially little incentive for the elected representatives of those districts to actually represent their constituents; that is, they represent the people who vote, and if only a third of the people are voting in a district that is set up based on the entire – the other two-thirds as well, elected officials don’t have to pay attention to those other two-thirds. In theory, they could be representing their interests, but it’s a virtual kind of representation; i.e., what the colonies had with Britain, and we kind of thought that was a bad idea. So if you set it up this way, you actually are starting to undermine the very notion of representing constituents, however defined. 

And look at the politics of it. When you look at the Voting Rights Act, right, Republicans have been, while publicly bemoaning this, happy to see “majority-minority” districts, which pack minorities into certain districts and find the surrounding districts to be more white and more conservative, therefore electing more Republicans. Democrats, especially minority-elected representatives, have seen that this is a good thing because they get more elected minority Democratic legislators. But look at the two results about this, perverse results. 

The first we know is less democratic or less contested elections because you have minorities packed into certain districts and then other districts in which are more white and more conservative, and so you don’t have contested Republican/Democratic elections. Second – and it’s much more important, I think, in this regard – is the basic point that there are no incentives in those districts built-in for the elected officials to be responsive to the non-citizens’ needs, especially if those non-citizens disagree with the elected officials. And it’s not as if every immigrant, even every immigrant in a particular population, whether Asian or Hispanic or otherwise, agrees with the views of someone who is elected because they’re from the same background. And so the result here is that you actually have less representation, less chance for incorporating citizens because there’s no incentive built into the system, actually, to even get them to be citizens because then they would actually be able to vote, and if they disagreed with you, you might have to be responsive. Perverse, systemic incentives built into the system.

Okay, but what do you do about it? Steve talks in the report briefly about encouraging citizenship, says it’s a good idea. I certainly agree with that. It’s another reason we ought to be doing more to encourage citizenship, and I think it’s scandalous how little we do it, despite the fact that everyone says it’s a good idea. It’s remarkable; when it’s such a good idea, why do we do so little about it?

But let me move beyond that to the – what Steve really makes the harder argument. Even if you did that, even if you increased citizenship for legal permanent residents or others, you’re still going to have a large number of non-citizens. And reducing immigration levels is one way, therefore, of going further upstream, to sort of get around the downstream perverse results. 

Now, I don’t mean this as a – I don’t mean this as a critical comment, but the Center for Immigration Studies obviously is a strong believer in reducing levels of immigration, and it’s no surprise that if that’s an important goal and they have lots of good and powerful reasons for that, that this particular study is going to work its way back to that. I don’t mean that they cooked the numbers at all; I just mean that’s something they’re going to focus on. And it’s a hallmark of Mark that he would invite someone like me, who doesn’t agree with them on all of these points, nonetheless to come here.

The question – well, really there are two questions to ask about that. The first is even if you did reduce immigration somewhat, is that really going to make a difference in a significant way on this question? And the second is, are there other options that they didn’t consider in this report on the way to focusing on lower immigration. Let me take those up briefly and conclude.

The first question, on whether it will make a difference, I just have a question. I don’t know the numbers, but you’re not going to limit – you’re not going to end immigration, so you’re going to be reducing immigration – some smaller degree of numbers even if you could do that, which incidentally is, as Mark and Steve note, politically difficult to accomplish. So if we’re talking about realism, that’s not exactly an easy road to hoe. So you would have some less number of legal immigrants, but you would still have a lot of the guest workers and the foreign students and others in this regard, and so we need to know what that number would be in terms of whether we can weigh the tradeoffs of, well, if we think immigration is good but it has these perverse results, what are – you know, if we reduced it somewhat, would we get much benefit to limiting these implications? We need to know that. I just don’t know the answer.

More importantly, if you reduce legal immigration but don’t address illegal immigration – which is an even more difficult issue not only from the perspective of legislation but enforcement – then the result is you may compound illegal immigration, make it more of an increase in illegal immigration, and the result of this would be, of course, that you would have more of this same kind of apportionment problem, but it would be based on the illegal dimension, which I think would be a larger problem from everybody’s perspective up here and I think across the board. So, how realistic is their solution is my question. 

Lastly, on the way to getting to that solution, are there – did they bypass other opportunities; are there other things to look at here? And let me just suggest something that maybe it’s a little perverse in its own way, but what the heck, give me a moment on it, Mark. The report states at the end – in effect, it calls states like Indiana to Pennsylvania – is that one of the losers? – Michigan, Utah losers, that they lose out in political representation because of this setup. 

Let me just suggest another idea. Why don’t those states have a concerted effort to encourage immigrants to relocate from New York and Texas and North Carolina to their states? If they actually did that – heck, we have business incentives. Every state in this country offers business incentives for companies to relocate. How about incentives for immigrants to relocate? And think about the implications of this. This is a way in which states could simultaneously increase their diversity – presuming they want to do that, and that’s an open question for them to decide – and get more bang for the buck. They would increase their political power in this regard. If Utah could just take a few more illegal immigrants from North Carolina, they might have actually got this seat, especially if they could count their overseas missionaries. 

This is not radically different from an older policy we pursued at the turn of the century and in the teens and ‘20s and ‘30s in this country, except that was far more coercive, trying to spread out and disperse immigrants. This would be one where states would, in a sense, have a race to compete for these non-citizens, and the result would be the possibility that you could increase political representation, increase diversity, and increase political power. And there are a lot of issues that would raise and problems with it, and I don’t mean to suggest it’s an easy one, but I did want to conclude by suggesting that there may be some alternative ideas here that are worth thinking creatively about, and I thank Steve and Mark very much for inviting me and giving me the chance to be perverse up here on these questions.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Noah. Steve or Dudley, do you want just a one or two minute quick rejoinder? And then we will open it up for the audience. Okay.

MR. CAMAROTA: Well, a change in immigration policy, obviously depending on how big the change, could have enormous implications into the future. If you reduced your illegal alien population; say, if it was 7 million in the Census, get that down to 2 million, that would be a huge impact. If you could – and I think that’s the kind of range we could expect enforcement to have a significant impact on.

On the question of legal immigration, if you reduced it from 1.1 million, say, and limit it more to what the Jordan Commission had suggested – you know, spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens – you might get that number down to more like four or 500,000. So the number of non-citizens in the future could be cut by more than half. And as well, you might argue that the guest workers are very problematic for the economy and American workers, and foreign students have just become a big boondoggle and that’s a problem, so you could cut those as well. I could easily imagine the number of non-citizens being cut by half or more. That would make this problem significantly less. Coupled with a dramatic increase in citizenship efforts, you could largely eliminate the problem, I would argue, or a very large share of it.

On the question of getting states – attracting states – attracting immigrants, I think that sort of maybe misses a point in that states should try to be attractive places for everyone to live, not just for the foreign-born. If Pennsylvania – my home state’s economy grew a lot, lots of people would move there from other states and they would get more immigrants. 

It’s unlikely that any particular state policy is going to have a big impact on the decision of where people live for two fundamental reasons. One is immigration is largely but not exclusively driven by networks of family and friends, so where there are lots of immigrants now, there will be lots of immigrants tomorrow. The second thing that’s important to realize is economic – is the economy. If Pennsylvania’s economy grew, again, it would get immigrants. If it doesn’t grow, it’s not going to get any. There’s no statement the governor could make, there’s no policy initiative that he could sign that would significantly and fundamentally change those numbers. Could he get several thousand more a year? Yeah, maybe he – and a state like Pennsylvania is such a big state, it would have to be a lot of people. 

I’m extraordinarily skeptical that there’s some policy – and again, I’m uncomfortable with the idea that the state thinks it wants to make its state more attractive for foreign-born residents. I would hope that the state sees itself as trying to make it just more attractive for everyone, and then the foreign-born may choose to live there as well. After all, in the end immigrants will choose to live where they want, for they are human beings, as is – well, legal immigrants know is their right.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Thanks, Steve. Any questions? If you could just identify – (audio break, tape change) –

Q: (In progress.) It’s not clear why FAIR didn’t have standing. I’m wondering what would constitute standing? And in the pending court battle, as far as the various methods of addressing this, is it going to boil down to apportionment versus citizen voters’ due process rights violations? And then on the notion of states attracting, what about rather than attracting, states combining to form one state and increase their political power?

That’s for anybody.

MR. CAMAROTA: We didn’t go into that question. We sort of basically –

MR. CAMAROTA: Yeah, don’t go into the legal issues. We avoid them. So we say that – it’s an enormous dispute. So I have read that case. I’m not an attorney. I’m not 100 percent sure why they didn’t have standing either. 

There was another suit brought which didn’t go through either and that was brought by members of Congress and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I don’t know why that one was also thrown out. I mean, I can’t give you a good legal opinion, just to say the issue’s up in the air. If you wanted to exclude non-citizens, it’s unsettled at this point.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Anyone else?

MR. CAMAROTA: Oh, let me add one more thing on that. But I would argue passionately that’s the wrong question, because it can’t really happen. The Census isn’t structured – they don’t ask every single, solitary person whether they’re a non-citizen, so that would require the Census to be changed. The political dimension is huge. On illegals, you’d have to pick them out somehow, and that’s never going to pass muster with the courts, even if you get it right 95 percent of the time.

Q: What about a due process case? If I’m a voter and saying my due process rights are violated by the very process by which apportionment is completed.

MR. CAMAROTA: Yeah, I think one of the issues, though, would be, what kind of relief can you expect? There is no – in the 2000 Census they didn’t ask everyone whether they were citizens, they just asked a lot of people, and so then you can go from there. So there’s no way to fix it now anyway. It’s a done deal. If you get started now, you could change the way the next census is asked, but you still have the problem of illegals and you’d have to know who they were. It would take a lot. There probably isn’t any way to fix this problem other than a reduction in immigration.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Yes, sir, in the back.

Q: I have two questions. 

MR. KRIKORIAN: If you can identify yourself too, please.

Q: My name is – (inaudible). The first question, it seems to me that if you are making the argument that certain states are losing representation in Congress because of immigration -- which is obviously an ongoing process. It’s not something new. This has been ongoing since the very beginning. The question becomes, why is this so problematic? I mean, are the new representatives of the new states – (inaudible). Are their politics so radically different from the old representatives – (inaudible)? That’s the first point, and I don’t believe that that might be what we see, because if you come and say, look, California has a new representative. The (settler ?) policies that he’s proposing is radically different from the policies that this guy in Indiana, Pennsylvania, or Vermont is. Then maybe you have something to say here. But if it’s going to be based on the citizens, the people who are nationalists of America, that could be somewhat complicated, depending on whose national – when you became natural, et cetera, et cetera. That’s the first question.

The second question, I believe in many ways – (inaudible) – that this whole discussion is somewhat – (inaudible). I mean, this really shows the breakdown now in a world in which we have so many different – I’m not a United States citizen; I’m a French-Dutch essentially from the Caribbean who lived a long time in Europe. And what we see happening in Europe now, for example, is this breakdown of – this moving to give non-citizens who obviously – I lived in the Netherlands – not somebody who just walks in, obviously not, but somebody who’s there after five or 10 years, who for whatever reason does not want to become, for example, a Dutchman, a Frenchman, an American, but who has a family, who has lived here, worked, no problems with police; I mean, who has lived a life, a virtuous life –

MR. KRIKORIAN: Okay, we get the point. In other words, the question of non-citizen voting, whether that’s appropriate or not, is that essentially what you’re getting at? Let me let Noah respond –

MR. KRIKORIAN: – respond to that one and then if Steve or Dudley want to say anything.

MR. POSTON: I think the European example is critical here, but in a way that, from my view, may cut against what I think your position is. What we see in Europe is a movement to provide non-citizen voting and to recognize the permanency of the immigrant population but not to incorporate them into the national identity or the real lifeblood of the nation. And I think that they are, in effect, using voting to say, yes, you have a role here, yes we want you need to be represented, but you’re not really Belgian or really French or really German and you never will be. 

And I think the American model, which has resisted that, though not entirely -- there had been non-citizen voting in states up until – I think the last was 1923 – and it’s based on a nice idea of folks are here; even if they’re not citizens give them an opportunity to be heard. But I think it runs into the problem that goes back to the concept I was talking about earlier. It actually cuts against an effort to incorporate them fully into the sense of an American nation that has not only voting rights but responsibility, the sense of a shared identity – an identity that may change because of the immigrants, but it doesn’t hold them at arm’s length, it seeks to actually incorporate them rather than to say, here are some bits and pieces and we won’t actually call it citizenship, we’ll just divide it up and we’ll distinguish nationhood from citizenship.

And I think that’s a real mistake on the part of Europe’s and one I would – I would rather see those immigrants become citizens, become full members of the polity, understand themselves as such, and vote. 

MR. KRIKORIAN: Anyone else? Yes, sir.

Q: I represent United States Border Control. And my question is specifically for Mr. Picus. I was wondering – one of the main points, you said it was enticing immigrants from one state to another, say, from California to Indiana, Michigan. Specifically what can you say – as a native Californian I understand – I mean, California’s economy is so conducive to immigrants. I mean, there’s so much agricultural economy for illegals to come do the work that, you know, citizens of California themselves don’t want to do. What can Michigan or Indiana -- who’s also geographically so far from Mexico, where we get most of our immigrants, mostly our illegal immigrants – what kind of things can they do to even make a dent in the kinds of numbers California takes from Mexico?

MR. PICUS: I knew I’d get in trouble for this. (Laughter.) This is what you get for adding a perverse idea to a report that already shows these implications. I don’t have any easy answer to that, and let me first go back and respond to Steve, because, yeah, he’s absolutely right. There is the networks, which are driving much of this. There’s the economy, which is driving much of this, and so I wouldn’t want to overestimate the extent to which any particular policy could make a serious difference here. 

But having said that, neither would I want to underestimate that. If people are really mad in Utah, in Indiana and Michigan about this and they want to do something about it, that starts to get people thinking about different alternatives and ideas. And as Steve has pointed out, there is dispersal. It does happen, it just happens slowly. And so the question is, what can you do to increase that? I mean, there are networks of immigrants in Michigan, in Minnesota, and there are jobs in those places that exist and that could function in the same way. California’s economy, if you haven’t noticed, isn’t exactly in good shape, and there are a lot of immigrants there, partly because they’re doing the work but partly because of the proximity and the networks and such.

So I don’t have a list of policies here, but if you think back to the argument over the last five of six years and the discussion of anti-immigrant rhetoric and what that would lead to, and Prop. 187 that got Schwarzenegger talking about – well, I don’t know if it got him in trouble or votes, but became an issue. If you think about states being welcoming to immigrants and setting out a welcome mat, being clear about how they want to help them adjust, one of the hardest things for newcomers, whether legal or illegal, in any society, is the fact that they have to rely so much on informal networks. And the extent to which states might offer particular policies that are much more focused on how to become a citizen, what it means to be part of our community, how do you get around here, how we work – there are these arguments over drivers licenses, which raise a whole set of other issues which I don’t want to – so I’m not saying these are all the right ways to do it and I haven’t – but it doesn’t strike me as crazy that you could start thinking about, if we wanted our state to be more attractive to immigrants, where is that in our policy, in our rhetoric and our economy? 

How much effect it would have – yeah, Steve, I'm not saying it’s going to knock down doors and change everything, but neither would I say that reducing illegal immigration from seven million to two million is exactly likely to happen. As a matter of realistic policy, that would be my position. So let’s deal with comparable realisms here, not one thing that’s grounded in reality and the other thing that we get to just hope for if we support that view.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Anyone else? Well, the participants, most of them, will be here that you can bend their ear afterwards. And like I said, our report is online for those of you who can’t get enough and want additional copies. And I’d just like to thank everybody for coming. Thanks a lot.

Topics: Politics