Walter Pierce

La. officials weigh in on Census Bureau plan

by Walter Pierce

Gov. Bobby Jindal, along with several members of Congress from Louisiana, are generally united in their opposition to the U.S. Census Bureau’s plan to include non-registered immigrants — “illegals,” as it were — in the 2010 census, a decision that Louisiana demographer Elliott Stonecipher and LSU constitutional law professor John Baker, in an editorial Sunday in The Wall Street Journal, predict will likely cost Louisiana a seat in the House of Representatives.

“We certainly don’t think they should be counting illegal immigrants to determine political representation in Congress,” Gov. Bobby Jindal tells The (Monroe) News-Star in an article published Thursday. Through a spokesman, Sen. David Vitter echoed Jindal’s opposition: "He is also very concerned about the negative impact that counting illegal aliens in the census gathering data will have on congressional representation in future years — particularly in Louisiana. He is exploring ways to address this dilemma.”

Stonecipher predicts that by counting non-citizens, states like California, Texas and Arizon — all with relatively high percentages of illegal immigrants — will get an inflated population count. A state’s population determines not only how many House districts it has, but also its number of Electoral College votes as well as the amount of federal aid it receives. According to the Stonecipher/Baker model, states like Louisiana, with far fewer undocumented residents, will lose House districts to the Californias of the union.

The biggest loser in this scenario would be northeast Louisiana and it’s congressional member, U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander in the 5th congresssional district. Stonecipher predicts the region will be folded into Shreveport, which anchors the 4th, as part of a larger redraw of the state map — from seven districts to six.

Predictably, Alexander is nonplussed. “I object to that,” he tells The News-Star. “I don’t think they should be [counted].” Alexander added that he believes the census has become a political issue, with the counting of non-residents falling along a party wedge: Democrats in favor, Republicans opposed. Evidence of that, perhaps, may be found in the more measured response to the issue from Sen. Mary Landrieu, according to The News-Star:

Aaron Saunders, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, said the senator believes Stonecipher and Baker have raised an excellent point, although it is one that is overshadowed by two larger problems.

“First, the Senator is focused on ensuring that Louisiana’s flood protection moves forward quickly so that the state doesn’t lose any more of its citizens as we did after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. And the second problem is illegal immigration. Senator Landrieu is less concerned about counting illegal aliens and more concerned about better enforcement of our immigration laws. She believes that if the federal government focuses its efforts on combatting illegal immigration, this potential census problem will evaporate.”