WASHINGTON – Immigration can decrease the political power of some states,according to a report released Thursday.
The Center for Immigration Studies,which favors limits on immigration,said both illegal and legal immigration affect congressional apportionment.
The study said states such as Texas,California and Florida have more congressional representation because of higher numbers of non-citizens.
Congressional apportionment,or the division of state population to determine how many members a state will have in the House of Representatives,occurs every 10 years,after the census. All residents are counted,even non-citizens.
According to the study,Texas gained one new congressional seat in 2001 because of higher populations reported in the 2000 Census. It also gained a seat after the 1990 Census.
Gains like these are unfair to other states that don't have high levels of immigration,such as Indiana or Michigan,said the study’s co-author,Steven A. Camarota,of the CIS.
“Immigration takes away representation from states composed almost entirely of U.S. citizens,so new districts can be created in states with large non-citizen populations,” he said.
Camarota said that,because non-citizens can’t vote in congressional elections,citizens who live in districts with many non-citizens have more political clout than people who live in districts with very few non-citizens.
Dudley L. Poston,one of the study’s authors and a sociology professor at Texas A&M University,said that more than 10 percent of U.S. residents are foreign born. CIS estimated the illegal immigrant population at 7 million people.
Though he agreed that immigration levels hurt political representation in states with lower immigrant levels,Poston said in an interview that a shift of immigrants out of the state would have economic consequences.
“If you reduced illegal immigration,it would have a big impact on Texas because of the reliance of the state economy on workers,” Poston said. “These are jobs that native Texans and legally resident Texans don't want to do.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau,in 2000,Texas had a population of roughly 20.8 million people,13.9 percent of whom said they were foreign born. But for border towns like Brownsville,the numbers of immigrants are higher. One-quarter of residents living in Cameron County,which includes Brownsville,in 2000 were foreign born.
But those statistics may not be accurate,Poston said,because people are not required to answer questions about immigrant status.
“People aren't going to say,‘Yes,I'm here illegally,' because they know it's against the law,” Poston said.
The study concluded that the country faces two choices — keeping the status quo or reducing the number of immigrants,which Camarota acknowledged would result in “acrimonious” political battles.
The study updates a 1998 CIS report that predicted what Camarota said has come to pass.
Noah Pickus,a professor at North Carolina State University,was not an author of the report,but was included in the Capitol Hill panel discussion of the study.
He agreed with the authors that immigration presented problems for some states,and said states have a “perverse incentive to increase the number of illegal aliens” to gain more political representation in the House.
And though he agreed that reducing immigration would help balance apportionment,he said it was not the only option that should be considered. He said if legal immigration were reduced,it could cause a spike in illegal immigration.
There would be “more of the same kind of apportionment problems,but it would be more based in the illegal dimension,” he said.