Report: Immigration Levels Cost Republicans 9 House Seats in 2000

By Steve Brown | July 7, 2008 | 8:29 PM EDT

( - The heavy influx of immigrants cost the Republican Party nine House seats during the 2000 political redistricting process, according to a report released Thursday. At least one of those seats was lost as a result of illegal aliens being counted as part of the national population by the U.S. Census Bureau, the report's authors said.

The report, "Remaking the Political Landscape: The Impact of Illegal and Legal Immigration on Congressional Apportionment," was compiled by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). It examined the redistribution of House seats as a result of immigration.

The nation's 435 U.S. House seats are distributed among the states based on the census results every 10 years, with each state automatically getting at least one constitutionally mandated seat.

For example, as millions of Americans have left northern states for warmer climates in the south, those southern states have gained more seats. The influx of illegal aliens and other non-citizens has also affected congressional reapportionment since census takers count those individuals as well.

Dudley Poston, a Texas A&M sociology professor and author of the CIS report, examined how congressional seats would have been reapportioned if the Census Bureau had not counted naturalized American citizens, legal permanent residents (green card holders), illegal aliens and those on long-term temporary visas.

"If we do this, there's a 16-seat change (among the states) in the 2000 apportionment. California loses nine of its 53 seats. This means that nine of its 53 seats are attributable to its immigrant population," Poston said. It could actually be more than nine, Poston said, since some immigrants end up bearing children in the United States who are not considered foreign-born. "So California is the big winner," he said.

Poston then turned to the partisan implications by designating states Republican or Democrat based on the 2000 presidential election results - the big red and blue map.

"If the foreign-born were excluded, the Republicans would gain nine seats," Poston said.

Steven Camorata, CIS director of research, added: "The nine seats redistributed by non-citizens has a very serious effect when one considers that only a total of 12 seats in their entirety changed hands in 2000."

Poston used state estimates prepared by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which indicated that nearly 7 million illegal aliens were counted in the 2000 Census. The illegal alien population, which Poston said is heavily concentrated in just three states - California, Florida and New York - resulted in the creation of at least one new Democratic-dominated congressional district and at the expense of the Republican Party.

The report did not pinpoint a particular district that Democrats, traditionally the favorite party of illegal aliens, seized from Republicans. Rather, the combination effect of the illegal population in America produced the GOP loss of at least one seat, according to the report.

"Illegal immigration also has a significant effect on presidential elections because the Electoral College is based on the size of congressional delegations," the CIS study indicated.

According to the report, many low-immigration states that might seem unaffected by immigration experience "significant voter erosion" of their political influence in Washington.

"Taking away representation from states composed almost entirely of U.S. citizens so that new districts can be created in states with large numbers of non-citizens makes immigrant-induced reapportionment very different from reapportionment caused when natives relocate to other states," Camorata pointed out.

Of the nine states that lost a seat in 2000, only one in 50 residents is a non-citizen, the report revealed. By contrast, one out of every seven California residents is a non-citizen and six of the nine seats redistributed due to non-citizens went to California.

These findings, Poston suggested, might spur a movement among the public and lawmakers to revise the method of census taking.

"The exclusion of illegal immigrants may well be the scenario most likely to gain popular support and spark a legal challenge," Poston said.

The report noted that the Supreme Court has never addressed the substantive legal arguments surrounding the exclusion of illegal aliens in the census. The Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform (FAIR) filed two lawsuits challenging the Census Bureau's methodology of counting illegal aliens, but both suits were dismissed. In the latter suit, plaintiffs included 40 members of Congress and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

"Trying to deal with this problem by excluding non-citizens, illegal or legal, would be very difficult politically and is probably impossible as a practical matter," Camorata concluded.

According to Noah Pickus, the director of North Carolina's Institute for Emerging Issues and a participant in Thursday's panel discussion, the findings lend credence to the notion that states have a "perverse" incentive to attract larger populations of illegal aliens, which "undermines the very notion" of representative democracy on which the country was founded.

"The country faces a choice: either continue to have record amounts of illegal immigration and therefore continue to redistribute seats away from states comprised mostly of American citizens to states with large numbers of illegal and legal immigrants, or better enforce immigration laws so as to reduce if not eliminate illegal immigration," Camorata said.

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