The U.S. Supreme Court currently has pending before it an apportionment/redistricting case from Texas, Evenwel v. Abbott, in which the plaintiffs challenged redistricting on the grounds that the legislature should use eligible voters, rather than total population, as the relevant measure for apportionment. Each district, in other words, should have roughly the same number of eligible voters, not the same number of people.
This would not only exclude non-citizens but also American citizens who are not registered to vote, minor children and felons. As was explained to the Justices in amicus briefs and at oral argument, there is no existing data base that would allow for such a calculation. All states rely on the decennial census population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The U.S. Constitution empowers the Congress to carry out the census in “such manner as they shall by Law direct” (Article I, Section 2). The legal authority for collecting the data resides in Title 13 of the U.S.C. or the “Census Act.”
That Census data is used not just for redistricting but for distribution formulas for federal revenue sharing to state and local communities for health, education, welfare, public safety, housing, transportation, etc.
The twisted logic of Evenwel appears to be behind the latest anti-immigrant nativist proposal from Sen. John Kavanagh, an acolyte of disgraced and recalled former Senator Russell Pearce and crazy Uncle Joe Arpaio. Lawmaker: Don’t let Census count illegal residents:
The legislation crafted by Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, would allow cities, towns and counties to count only those who are U.S. citizens, nationals of U.S. territories, or are legally admitted to the United States. More to the point, SB 1044 would forbid counting anyone who is an illegal immigrant.
Kavanagh’s move come as several Arizona cities are conducting mid-decade counts to get a more accurate figure of how many people are present. That can have immediate financial consequences as some state dollars are doled out to communities based on population.
There’s a lot of money involved.
This past budget year the state distributed nearly $609 million in “urban revenue sharing.” State transportation dollars also are allocated to communities at least in part based on population.
In general, the larger the community, the bigger the slice.
How many people are here illegally remains a guess at best.
Pew Hispanic estimated there are 11.3 million undocumented individuals in the country. And its most recent figures for Arizona put the figure at about 300,000.
Where they are within the state, however, is one of those unknowns that Kavanagh hopes to determine through his legislation.
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Kavanagh, whose wife, Linda, is the mayor of Fountain Hills, sees the issue from a different perspective.
“Why should the people in Fountain Hills get less state-shared revenue because there are more illegal immigrants in Phoenix?” he asked.
Nor is he dissuaded by arguments that communities have to provide services to all in their borders, here legally or not.
“If a city that has that problem wants to perhaps pressure the federal government to do their job and remove these people, then this will encourage that,” Kavanagh said.
He conceded there are flaws to the plan.
One is that, no matter what happens in a mid-decade tally, the Census Bureau’s official decennial count will include all residents, legal or not. So the new revenue sharing figures after 2020 would be reset based on total population.
Then there’s the simple question of why anyone would admit to someone who shows up at the door there are people present who are not here legally.
The U.S. Census Bureau counts every person in the U.S. without regard to citizenship status. This information is not referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or other law enforcement agencies for purposes of immigration proceedings to encourage the most full and complete accounting of the U.S. population.
What Kavanagh is proposing to do is to use the census to collect information on non-citizens for the eventual purpose of rounding them up for mass deportation, as Donald Trump is advocating. The GOP has become the Mass Deportation Party.
Kavanagh’s easy dismissal of the fact that an estimated 300,000 Arizona residents would not be counted would mean that Arizona would be short-changing itself on receiving our share of federal revenue sharing. It would not reduce the added costs borne by the state and local governments due to the loss of that federal revenue, which would mean raising local taxes, because the Tea-Publican Arizona legislature will never raise taxes and it always transfers that burden to local governments.
Of course, the intent here is to engender hatred towards non-citizens for having to pay taxes to cover costs associated with immigrants — a standard nativist trope frequently repeated by acolytes of Russell Pearce — while always ignoring the added value of these non-citizens who are working and paying taxes, and spending money in the Arizona economy.
The U.S. Census is constitutionally an obligation of the federal government, and federal law entirely preempts the field of law. It is not at all clear to me how Kavanagh thinks that the state can impose his requirement on the Census Bureau.
But then again, Kavanagh is among the Neo-Confederate Tea-Publicans who have routinely voted in favor of bills to disregard federal law, or to interpose or nullify federal law on the rallying cry of “states rights!” These Tea-Publicans act as if we are operating under the Articles of Confederation, or the Constitution of the Confederate States, not the Constitution of the United States. Given the opportunity, they would seccde.
Kavanagh’s measure, if approved, could affect more than just how the state is divided up among its 30 legislative districts.
He conceded that if Arizona might not get another congressional seat if does not count its undocumented population. But Kavanagh said that does not bother him.
“We don’t deserve a congressman, no state deserves a congressman, based upon numbers of illegal immigrants,” he said. “It’s simply a matter of principle.”
I’ll bet that the Arizona Republican Party and a majority of Arizonans disagree with his position. Early estimates are that Arizona stands to gain at least one congressional seat after the 2020 census. There are a lot of congressional wannabes out there who would tell Kavanagh to go “stuff it.”
There also could be political implications, with legislative district boundaries now drawn based on total population, legal and otherwise. And while that once-a-decade process is now governed by figures from the Census Bureau, which does not ask legal status, Kavanagh hopes his measure, if approved, pushes the federal agency in that direction. [Not going to happen.]
Kavanagh may get some legal help in that contention: The U.S. Supreme Court is currently weighing the Evenwel case out of Texas which seeks a ruling that states can consider only eligible voters in drawing districts. That would eliminate not only those who are undocumented but also could mean that prisoners and even minors did not count [as well as citizen non-registered voters].
Kavanagh, however, does not seek to go quite that far.
“They’re here legally,” he said. “I don’t believe that, in any way, should we legally recognize people here illegally or apportion any benefits or representative rights based on illegal presence.’
Well, that’s mighty white of you you anti-immigrant nativist.