Why the Supreme Court is Looking into Illegal Aliens Counted in the Census

It seems like a simple question. Should individuals who are in the United States illegally be included when it comes time to assign government representation as well as state and local funding? Many people are surprised to learn this question is currently being debated before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Common sense would suggest that, since unauthorized residents have no legal right to vote for a representative, that apportioning House seats based on their inclusion would, in actuality, give the legal voters of those places an undue amount of power in their vote. For if the illegal resident cannot vote then the legal residents are, technically, casting votes meant for them as well as their own.

Census results also affect education funding, including programs such as Head Start, Pell Grants, school lunches, rural education, adult education, and grants for preschool special education. If the illegal residents aren’t directly benefitting, the legal residents are, basically using illegals to increase their own percentage of funds.

So why is this question so controversial that the Supreme Court is ruling on it? Because of President Trump. The President has said he intends to exclude unauthorized immigrants from the 2020 census totals that he is scheduled to send to Congress in January for use in reapportionment of House seats and funding.

Democrats argue that for more than two centuries illegal aliens have been included. And that the Constitution and the 14th Amendment require that House seats be allotted according to “the whole number” of persons in each state. And that it has long been understood to include all the nation’s residents, whether American citizens, foreigners admitted here on visas or immigrants with no documents at all.

If the Court rules for President Trump some states with few illegal immigrants could pick up seats. Alabama, for example, may lose one of its seven House seats in the next reapportionment; the state argues that illegal immigrants are depriving its citizens of fair representation. Democrats argue that restricting the count to citizens would tend to benefit states that are rural and Republican at the expense of ones that are urban and Democratic. 

Some Federal courts must agree, for they have ruled in three separate lawsuits that the President lacks the authority, saying in one case that the question was “not even close.” But now the Supreme Court will have the final say and the public will learn something about apportionment that many likely never realized.