Whom Should the Census Count?

A Wall Street Journal op-ed and a National Review writer spar over counting non-U.S. citizens in the 2010 Census.

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Illegal immigration may be an issue that often unifies the right, but an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal caused a temporary rift.

In the op-ed, John S. Baker and Elliott Stonecipher argue that the 2010 Census will count so many illegal immigrants that it misappropriates House seats to a few states like California that the op-ed authors say is home to an estimated 5.7 million non-U.S. citizens. The authors want the census only to count legal, permanent residents towards its tallies of state populations. As the authors argue:

The Census Bureau can of course collect whatever data Congress authorizes. But Congress must not permit the bureau to unconstitutionally redefine who are "We the People of the United States."

Unexpectedly, the essay comes under assault from an illegal immigration critic: Mark Krikorian of the National Review. Kirkorian says the writers go too far in wanting to exclude all non-citizens from the count because while "all illegals are non-citizens ... not all non-citizens are illegal." Furthermore, the bureau is powerless to change how it counts because it increasingly does what the president, Congress, and courts tell it, Kirkorian writes.

But the disagreement doesn't run deep. Kirkorian says he is "sympathetic" to  the idea that illegal immigrants should be excluded from the census, but believes the reasoning was "sloppy." Instead, he suggests two alternatives.

First, you could ask on the short form (which is already set for next year, so this would be for the 2020 census) whether or not a person is a U.S. citizen, and use only the Yes answers for purposes of apportionment...

But if the inclusion of illegals specifically is your concern, then better enforcement of the immigration laws is your only practical recourse.

Kirkorian ends his rebuke with an appeal for unity to conservatives on this point.

This last one has the most potent short-term impact-- stepping up enforcement in the run-up to April 1, 2010, Census Day, would scare off illegals from responding and result in an apportionment of congressional and state legislative seats less arttificially skewed in favor of the Democrats ... Preventing a repeat of that policy should be a top priority for conservatives.
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