On July 21, President Donald Trump sent to the secretary of commerce a memorandum titled “Excluding Illegal Aliens from the Apportionment Base Following the 2020 Census.”

It directed the Census Bureau to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 population data used to apportion the U.S. House of Representatives. Trump’s directive is in conflict with the traditional interpretation of the Constitution that the House should be apportioned according to the numbers of people residing in the states. His directive will surely be challenged in the courts.

Nevertheless, I ask: Are there costs for Texas if undocumented immigrants are excluded from the 2020 census count? Yes, there are, and they are severe.

Congressional apportionment involves the equitable assignment to the 50 states of the 435 seats in the House. Every state receives one automatic seat. The method of equal proportions then uses population counts of the residents of the 50 states to assign the remaining 385 seats, determining which states receive second seats, third seats and so forth. In the 2010 apportionment, Texas received 36 seats. I have projected the April 1 resident population of Texas at around 29.3 million. This will result in Texas receiving three additional House seats in the 2020 apportionment, giving Texas 39 seats. What will happen if undocumented people are not included in the 2020 data?

I estimate that in 2020 there are between 1.65 million and 1.83 million people residing in Texas without legal authorization, and between 10.4 million and 10.6 million such people in the country. There are two types of undocumented residents: Those who enter the U.S. illegally, i.e., without proper papers and inspection, and they are referred to as EWIs, or entry without inspection; and those who enter the U.S. legally, but overstay or violate the conditions of their visas. These days, visa overstayers comprise about 60 percent of people entering our country who end up being undocumented.

I have removed the undocumented immigrants, both EWIs and visa overstayers, from the 2020 census counts of Texas and other states, and then used the method of equal proportions to apportion the House. Texas would receive one or two fewer seats in the 2020 apportionment if undocumented people are not included in the 2020 counts, depending on whether the low or high number of undocumented people is removed. This means Texas would end up in 2020 with 37 or 38 seats, not the 39 most researchers project the state will receive.

I looked next at the economic consequences of not including undocumented people in the 2020 census. The federal government distributes each year to the states around $1.5 trillion, with the amount to each state based on its population. In 2017, more than 300 federal programs used 2010 census counts as the basis for distributing the $1.5 trillion to state and local governments, and other local entities across the nation. Texas receives almost $102 billion in federal funding every year based on its population.

For every one person not included in the Texas count for 2020, Texas will receive around $3,500 less in federal funds every year from 2021 to 2030. Multiply the $3,500 by the 1.6 million undocumented people in the state, and you get $5.6 billion. Yes, keeping undocumented people out of the Texas 2020 decennial census population count will result in Texas each year receiving $5.6 billion less in federal funds.

It makes no sense, political or economic, to exclude undocumented people from the 2020 census enumeration. Moreover, it is not fair to do so. They are residents, and they pay taxes. According to the IRS, in 2015, workers without Social Security numbers paid more than $13 billion in taxes and they contributed over $12 billion in Social Security revenue through payroll tax deductions.

Excluding undocumented persons will result in severe political and economic costs for Texas.

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by Dudley L. Poston Jr., an emeritus professor of sociology and demography at Texas A&M University in College Station. The op-ed first appeared in the San Anton to Express-News. Click here to read the original posting. Poston can be reached at: [email protected]. The above column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian with the permission of the author. 

Editor’s Note: Credit for the main photo accompanying the above guest column goes to: AP/J. Scott Applewhite.


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