Immigration and Apportionment

Monday, August 13, 2018

Over at the Manhattan Contrarian is a connection I've never seen made in the immigration debate -- between immigration and the distribution of congressional seats among states with more vs. fewer immigrants:

Image via Wikipedia.
Granted, the effect of this phenomenon only registers with the decennial census, and nothing about new immigration this year is going to affect the apportionment for the 2018 or 2020 elections. Nevertheless, the overall effect is that Democrats get to represent in Congress something in the range of 15 to 20 million non-citizen immigrants, without those immigrants ever needing to vote. As a rough approximation, this represents about 20 or so seats in Congress, and it could even go up somewhat after the next apportionment. This swing dwarfs any possible effect of actual illegal voting. [bold added]
In my own thinking about immigration, I have long advocated reform of the process by which immigrants can become citizens. Should we also rethink how we apportion representation? It might help to consider the hypothetical situation of this "bump" being in support of whichever party you find most congenial to America's best interests. I haven't thought for long about the issue, so won't offer an opinion on it now.

Having said that, I do find it worthwhile to recall something frequently missing from conversations about immigration. As I noted some time ago:
[T]he real problem is the existence of the welfare state. Immigrants did not start socialized education. Immigrants did not force law-abiding emergency care personnel to accept non-paying customers. Immigrants did not make it illegal for some of us to ingest chemicals that others disapprove of. Americans, forgetting that their government was established to protect the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, passed (and support) these laws. Americans chose to plunder each other's pockets and run each other's lives.
The "freeloading" problem is one created by improper government rather than immigration. Likewise, the importance of apportioning our representation precisely might be less important were our government confined to its proper scope, leaving us less at the mercy of Democrats wanting to put their hands on our wallets, not to mention Republicans wanting to put their hands in our pants. In such a context, the strongest case I can imagine for representation reform along the lines the first quote suggests would be: Large numbers of immigrants in some area might sway voters one way or another on a foreign policy issue pertinent to an election. But I can see such an effect going either way, so even that case seems difficult to make.

-- CAV


Kyle Haight said...

That's an interesting question, and I don't think the answer is dictated by political philosophy. It strikes me as akin to the voting age -- there's a range of valid options. I can see an argument that the structure of the government, including apportionment of representation, should be based purely on characteristics of citizens, not of resident non-citizens. There is also a reasonable argument that the resident non-citizens are still resident, and therefore cannot simply be ignored.

I do think one can make a strong argument against restructuring the government from one valid option to another for the primary purpose of gaining a structural partisan advantage. This is why we push back against blatant partisan gerrymandering (or should).

Gus Van Horn said...

Agreed. And the fact that some group of immigrants generally vote one way or another (e.g., Mexicans for Democrats or Cubans for Republicans) is irrelevant. Individuals can change their minds, and making changes as if this never happens is a close cousin to gerrymandering.

John Shepard said...

Something I often think of, Gus, in relation to the immigration debate, is a unique proposal by George Reisman (I recommend reading the entire, inspiring Chapter 20, available online, of his book Capitalism, from which this is a snippet, one of many proposals for moving towards a laissez-faire society:)

"While excluding the immigrants from the welfare state, we should simultaneously remove all government-imposed barriers to their being supplied privately with what they need. This would entail the removal of government licensing requirements in connection with meeting the medical, educational, transportation, and sanitation needs of the immigrants. As far as possible, this should be accompanied by privatization of such things as existing government-owned hospitals, schools, bus lines, and garbage-collection operations. An important result of privatization would be that the presence of the larger numbers of people resulting from immigration would be viewed as a source of more business, not more problems, as it is under the ineptitude of government ownership. In addition, in order to reduce the injustice that would exist in making immigrants pay taxes for the support of the welfare state for the native population, the immigrants should receive as nontaxable wages what would otherwise be their own and their employer's social security and medicare contributions made in connection with their employment. The ironic effect of all these liberalizing measures would be to give the immigrants more freedom than today's American citizens, and in that sense to make them truer Americans than today's American citizens. If, at the same time, the immigrants could be reached with procapitalist ideas, this might well serve as the foundation for their being developed into a major group opposed to the welfare state for anyone."

— George Reisman, Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics; Ch. 20, "Toward the Establishment of Laissez-Faire Capitalism"; "Freedom of Immigration"

See more:

Gus Van Horn said...


That's an interesting idea, and one I hadn't heard about. Thanks for brining it to my attention.