U.S. Constitution: Count Everyone

According to the Associated Press, Senate Democrats have blocked an effort made by Louisiana Sen. David Vitter to require a citizenship-related question in next year’s census in order to exclude illegal immigrants from population totals used in reapportionment of congressional districts.

The report says that critics of Vitter’s proposal have made two arguments — first, that including such a question would discourage immigrant participation in the census and be very expensive in doing so; and second, that “it’s long been settled law that the apportionment of congressional seats is determined by the number of people living in each state, regardless of whether they are citizens.”

While I am simply not in a position to read minds of illegal immigrants, nor am I capable of assessing the added expense of excising census reports from non-citizens, unfortunately I think the second argument made by Vitter’s critic holds significant water. While most of the debate over the census and reapportionment has centered on actual enumeration versus population estimates, the resounding majority of evidence shows that the founders intended that all residents be counted.

The third clause of Article I, Section 2 is fairly straight-forward: “The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.” The Constitution says nothing to distinguish citizens from non-citizens, nor do any of the contemporaneous writings from our founders.

Alexander Hamilton wrote, in Federalist No. 36, that “an actual census or enumeration of the people must furnish the rule, a circumstance which effectively shuts the door to partiality or oppression.” George Washington, in a 1791 letter to Gouverneur Morris, cited the advantages of and need for an actual count rather than an estimation by arguing that an estimate “of the number of inhabitants which would probably be found in the United States on enumeration” was likely too large. And even the Census Act of 1790 stated unequivocally the requirement of “a just and perfect enumeration and description of all persons resident within [census takers'] districts.”

Shutting the door to partiality. Inhabitants. All persons resident. I don’t like it any more than you do, and I welcome anyone more well versed in the Constitution and our founders’ writings to contradict me, but on this issue it appears that the Democrats could be right — any effort to exclude certain residents, illegal or not, could be questioned as unconstitutional.

Of course, our founders likely did not consider a rampant illegal immigration problem, or the idea that one of the two primary political parties would work to preserve the illegal immigration population for their own political gain. But as a constitutionalist, I cannot in right mind expand–without other evidence–the scope and meaning of Article I, Section 2. Hopefully, with a little more research, I’ll be able to down the road. For now, however, founders’ intent seems to spell difficulty for the GOP and David Vitter.

It’s a shame, and it is something which absolutely must be revisited. I have serious concerns about the 2010 census, and the use of illegal immigrant populations for reapportionment purposes is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.



  1. TNelson says:

    Our founders knew they were laying the footings for a 'more perfect' union. To think they would not have thought of illegal immigration to some extent seems unlikely. It appears to me that they chose not to address it. The question is why? perhaps other writings can shed some light on this.

  2. D.A.Gust says:

    Jeff is right! "Everyone", means just that!

    - or -

    How many fifths, should they count the illegals as being?

    The Three-Fifths Compromise was an agreement to count slaves as just a portion of a person in the population of America.

    The northern state reps invisioned the southern states becomming too powerful in congress, due to there being more of them, so they came up with the idea.

    The compromise was a mathematical formula which was a convenient way of stating that slaves should not be counted as persons. (circa 1787)

    Here is hope something like this will never be done again.

    Let's not repeat history, but learn from it instead.

  3. Mike says:

    D.A. Gust: You are conveniently omitting why the North had such a problem with the South becoming too powerful. It was because they'd have the congressional votes to forever prevent the abolition of slavery. Their population would guarantee them the majority in Congress, even though much of that population was prevented from voting for their representatives, which would make it impossible to rid the country of the blackest stain upon it.

    With regards to illegal immigration, I suspect the founding fathers never envisioned Congress making legal immigration so damned difficult and expensive!

    With regards to Jeff's argument, I tend to agree, with one caveat. While not counting may be unconstitutional, I would fully support ignoring the constitution (and I do not say that lightly!) when it came to counting in so-called "Sanctuary" cities who are so brazenly ignoring the law of the land in order to gain more power.

    Frankly, their actions are illegal at best and treasonous at worst.

  4. Rix says:

    Actually, we wouldn't have so many illegals if they weren't receiving so many free benefits, courtesy of the taxpayer. Kill all free perks for illegals, including ER services, and the problem will quickly dissolve by itself even without the trouble of border enforcement.

    A totally outstanding verification word, "mishmaat" – a Hebrew for "discipline. Shall we?

  5. GiveMeSanity says:

    OK. I can see where the Democrats have a point. Would they feel the same way if the "undocumented immigrants" voted Republican?

    Hispanics, in general, are conservatives. Most are Catholic, so they believe in the sanctity of life. They are frugal. Interest rates in South American countries are higher than US, so many have learned to spend only what they have without going into any debt. They believe limited government allows more freedom (perhaps unknowingly). Otherwise, there would be no need to come to America and take advantage of her great freedom. After all this, WHY do they vote Democrat? Seems the Democrats do an incredible job at reaching certain Demographics, even when the their policies are polar to the demographics' beliefs. Is there a way to turn the tide with the way these "undocumented immigrants" vote?

    I'm simply curious.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The Fourteenth Amendment states that we count all persons (other than un-taxed Indians), but then we subtract the number of male citizens who are denied the right to vote.
    Could the argument be made that, if illegals are denied the right to vote, we should subtract them?

  7. ADIOS AMIGOS says:

    Count em, then show em the door.

  8. rob.granger says:

    I expect that the Founder never thought that we would allow Illeagles to remain, so there was no way they exptected them to ever be counted. They seem to have actually beleived in enforcing laws, which if we did, we wouldn't have this issue now either.

  9. Courtney says:

    We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.

    Thomas Jefferson

  10. Lilly says:

    I don't think that the Founders were ignoring it. I think that they just didn't realize how big of a problem it would become. Our laws are suppose to help them become citizens or deport them. The problem is that we don't enforce our own laws, so now it is a problem.
    In IL it is against the law to ask anyone if they are illegally here for anything. Especially for state funds; medicare, medicaid, etc.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The founding fathers didnt address this because this wasnt an issue they would have considered. They would have kicked their butts out before it became a problem. As to "residing" they can not be considered to reside anyplace if they are here illeagally, they are squatters by nature of their crime, hench no way they sould be counted.


  1. [...] I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, and our founders were quite clear about its use.  From a year-old piece here at America’s Right: The third clause of Article I, Section 2 is fairly straight-forward: “The actual Enumeration [...]

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