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Miller Proposes Tallying Only Citizens in Census

Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) wants to change just one word in the Constitution. But the effect won’t be small.

Miller would change the word “persons” to “citizens” in the 14th Amendment, a move that would explicitly exclude illegal aliens for the purpose of reapportionment. Currently, illegal aliens are counted, though they are barred from voting.

Miller, a former Michigan secretary of state, argues that counting all persons gives districts with large numbers of illegal immigrants an unfair advantage over those without. She also contends that it is unfair and ultimately harms naturalized and U.S.-born citizens.

“It’s an issue of fairness and principle,” Miller said Monday about H. J. Res. 53, which she introduced Thursday. “Our system is supposed to be based on a caveat of one-man, one-vote.”

Miller noted that while 97.5 percent of residents in her district, Michigan’s 10th, are citizens, some districts — such as California’s 31st, held by Rep. Xavier Becerra (D) — are as little as 59 percent citizen.

She said that if her resolution had been in effect prior to the 2000 Census, California would have had six fewer seats while Michigan and Pennsylvania would not have lost one each. Utah, Montana and Oklahoma would each have gained one seat.

The National Council of La Raza, a Latino civil rights organization, opposes such legislation.

“It’s another way of registering frustration with our broken immigration system but does nothing to help the problem,” said Cecilia Muñoz, La Raza’s vice president for policy. “It actually causes harm to some very fundamental principles that date back to the founding of the country. … The constitutional principle is count everybody, including people who don’t vote such as people who are under 18, because Congress is supposed to represent everybody,” she said.

Because census numbers are used for distributing money from a wide array of federal programs, communities would be robbed of funds necessary to support their actual populations, Muñoz said.

Ironically, in an attempt to get as accurate a count as possible for the 2000 Census, the Census Bureau undertook an unprecedented effort to alleviate illegal aliens’ fears that they would be deported if they provided Census data leading up to the 2000 head count. Such factors, along with language barriers and lack of knowledge about the census, are thought to have depressed the count of illegal aliens in prior censuses.

While she termed illegal immigration “totally out of control,” Miller added, “I think Hispanic voters generally want to become citizens of the U.S.

“I’m a big proponent of legal immigration,” she said.

She said she does not believe that introducing the bill at a time when Republicans nationally are trying to court Latino voters will hurt her — or her party’s — standing with Hispanics.

Muñoz, however, said Latinos will not look favorably upon Miller’s efforts. “The anti-immigration voices in Congress all seem to be from the same party. I believe they are a minority, but their voices are very loud,” she said. “For a party that is trying to reshape its image, I believe it’s a liability.”

Miller said she hopes to have her legislation in effect in time for the 2010 Census. To do so, she will have to win approval of two-thirds of the House and Senate and three-quarters of the states.

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