An interesting aside to the controversy over illegal immigration is the potential effect it could have on how the people of Alabama are represented in Congress. The state of Alabama and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, whose 5th Congressional District spans the uppermost portion of the state, filed suit to force the U.S. Census to count only U.S. citizens and legal residents. Otherwise, an accounting that includes illegal immigrants would skew the numbers, likely resulting in the loss of one of Alabama’s congressional districts – likely the 2nd District, which includes the Wiregrass area. Eight other states – Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Rhode Island, would also lose a congressional seat. Conversely, states with higher rates of illegal population would gain additional House seats: Oregon, Colorado, Arizona and North Carolina would each gain one additional seat; Florida would gain two; and Texas would gain three.
Leave out illegal immigrants, and Alabama, Minnesota, and Ohio retain all their seats, while California would lose two seats and New Jersey would lose one. Texas would gain two instead of three, and Montana would gain one.
There’s only one problem with the suit, and it’s a big one. The language of the 14th Amendment mandates an accounting of all persons, excluding only “untaxed Indians” from the census. There’s no distinction differentiating between citizens and non-citizens. All means all, and Alabama believes, and rightly so, that the numbers of illegal immigrants in other parts of the country would have an adverse effect on Alabama’s representation.
The irony is that Brooks and the state of Alabama made a salient point. If the result of the U.S. Census is meant to establish representation in government and determine how federal funds are distributed, it’s sensible that those figures represent Americans.
However, it’s likely that Alabama is tilting at windmills once again, and may well find itself on the losing end as early as Sept. 6, when a hearing is scheduled.
A victory would upend a system in place since the 1790, and is unlikely. Considering the growing controversy over illegal immigration, it may well be likely to see an effort to amend the wording of the 14th Amendment with the distinction of “citizen” rather than “person.”