This census/congressional reapportionment issue breaks a lot of ways for Kansas, and the U.S. Supreme Court decision last week that tossed, at least for now, a question about legal residency in the U.S. splashes into Kansas in several ways.
The high court decision was basically that there is no persuasive constitutional reason for the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census to require folks in the U.S. to reveal whether they are lawfully in the United States. Practically, most are, but millions aren’t.
The likely result? If the decision holds, millions of immigrants who aren’t formally U.S. citizens will fill out the census form, and we’ll know how many people we have in the nation and in each state and where they are and just what federal and state government needs to do to keep them safe, healthy, educated…basically living a decent life in the United States. If residents who aren’t formally citizens don’t fill out the form, fearing deportation, well, that has other effects that might or might not favor Kansas.
The census total will determine just how the nation’s 435 seats in Congress are apportioned, which states gain seats, which states lose seats. It could mean, once the long division is completed, that Kansas could lose one of its four U.S. representatives. It could mean that some states (think California and probably Texas) will see more House seats, reducing Kansas’ bargaining position on issues in Congress that are important to Kansans. Like, agriculture funding, and probably even whether Amtrak riders in Kansas wind up on buses, not railroad cars.
Gov, Laura Kelly, like many Democrats, wants every person who is actually in the U.S. to be counted on that upcoming census, because the numbers will likely mean more federal assistance for the state. Who doesn’t want more of our federal income tax to be returned to Kansas under a wide range of programs? Some politicians believe Kansas could lose a House seat if not all residents are counted.
Republicans tend to lean toward making the census a count of legal citizens. That, they say, means that the federal government at least takes care of citizens, who are likely voters, and those non-citizens who don’t participate in the census don’t wind up with political power, and if they can register to vote under state laws, vote for candidates who will take care of them — like most of us do. Some politicians believe that Kansas could lose a House seat if non-citizens in California and certain other states are counted.
So, is it making sure that the federal government knows how to spread its (that’s our tax-dollar-funded) resources to states and their residents, or is it letting the federal government know where the citizens — not just residents — are, and using that information for assembling and funding federal programs?
Seeing the political problem here? Do you want something on the upcoming census that may hold down the participation of longtime residents who aren’t citizens, or do you want to scare some residents who aren’t citizens off participation, which may insulate conservative, likely Republican, members of Congress?
Of course, the issue probably comes down to just where that census information, and the names and addresses of residents who aren’t citizens, wind up. It’s not supposed to be widely dispersed within the federal government — say, to immigration law enforcers — but with the current president and his insistence on America for Americans, or whatever the current catchphrase is, who knows?
Would you risk filling out the form if it puts you and your family in jeopardy of deportation? Or would you trust the federal government to use the census information just for population-sensitive issues, like apportionment of Congress (and downstream, reapportionment of state legislatures)?
What’s the outcome? We can see Republicans wanting the citizenship issue, Democrats not wanting it. And both can make arguments. Probably depends on what arguments you care to hear…
Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report—to learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit the website at www.hawvernews.com