Now that President Trump has dropped his push to include a question about citizenship on the 2020 Census, Democrats will be tempted to claim victory and move on. Instead, both parties should promote a long-term solution to the issues raised by there being so many non-citizens counted in the drawing of congressional districts: encourage legal immigrants to become naturalized American citizens. Doing so would require both an endorsement of the meaning and value of citizenship but also a lowering of existing monetary and logistical barriers to naturalization.
It may well be true that including the citizenship question on the Census form would have discouraged immigrants, intimidated by the president’s rhetoric and stepped-up deportation threats, not to respond and thus to go uncounted. But that does not mean the status quo should not be changed. Democrats should acknowledge that, just as the structure of the Senate currently favors Republicans so, too, does the way in which the Constitution requires that congressional districts be determined favors Democrats.
Because representation is determined not by the number of potential voters but, as per the Constitution, a count of all residents, no matter their legal status, parts of the country where Democrats predominate tend to benefit. According to an Axios analysis, there are some 50 Democratic districts in which the foreign-born population tops 40%. There are only 10 such Republican districts. Counting residents who cannot vote may swell the number of Democratic seats — but it’s not good for democracy when residents have no voice in who represents them.
Howard Husock is vice president for policy research and publications at the Manhattan Institute.
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