Maloney Says Constitutional Amendment to Remove Non-Citizens From Census Ignores American Ideals

Dec 6, 2005
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC - The Government Reform Subcommittee on Federalism and the Census held a hearing on a constitutional amendment to remove non-citizen residents from the Census count. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) acted as the ranking Democrat and made the following statement in opposition to the amendment:

“Thank you Mr. Chairman. I appreciate your fairness in handling this hearing, and I always enjoy working with you. I wish Census Director Kincannon could have been here to discuss this proposed change to the way his agency does business.

“Unfortunately, before us is a truly reckless constitutional proposal, which on one hand runs counter to our American ideals and on the other hand makes little practical sense. Were it to become part of the Constitution, it would be the second Amendment in our history which did not expand individual liberties – the other was prohibition, and we know how that story ended. This Amendment shrinks liberty and deliberately blinds the national government to the needs of millions upon millions of Americans.

“This Amendment reverses the explicit intent of The Framers – that representation in the House should be based on population and that a periodic count of residents is the only legitimate means to assure equitable representation in a changing nation.

“The Census Act of 1790 – introduced by James Madison and signed into law by George Washington – called for an enumeration of the – quote – ‘inhabitants’ of the United States. This was deliberate. We were then, and have always been, a nation of immigrants.

“Indeed, seven signers of the Declaration of Independence and eight signers of the Constitution were foreign born. Non-citizens fought for liberty in the Revolutionary War, and for America in every war since. Today, 35,000 non-citizens serve on active duty and 8,000 more enlist every year. Most non-citizens are here legally. They are legal permanent residents and visa holders, who pay local, state and federal taxes.

“The Framers decided that only citizens would have the right to choose their representatives through the right to vote. They just as firmly intended that ‘all inhabitants’ of the country be counted for purposes of apportioning the seats in Congress.

“They mandated a decennial census of the entire population to prevent the ‘manipulation’ of political power and taxation. The Census is itself one of the many and vital ‘checks and balances’ imbedded in our Constitutional form of government which are at the root of why it has endured so long.

“This Amendment, however, turns the Census into a political gadget. As we will hear in testimony today, the Census has become a weapon in today’s political debate on immigration. Proponents of this Amendment will point to recent growth in the percentage of foreign-born residents to make a fallacious case that this has somehow “diluted voting representation” of non-border states. The truth is that compared to the post-Civil War counts, for instance, this percentage is historically low.

“As we will hear today, this Amendment is a management nightmare. It requires that the Census Bureau first count everyone, then for the first time in our nation’s history, ask everyone for proof they are a citizen, only for the purpose of going back and removing people from the count.

“That will be a huge cost in time and taxpayer money. Imagine when proponents of this amendment demand that residents show proof of citizenship – the DMV and passport offices can tell you this is no easy task – especially since there are parts of our country where birth certificates were once infrequently issued. The end result will be a National ID card.

“And let's not sugar coat the effects of this amendment: it will discriminate. It will disproportionately exclude Hispanics – who make up the lion's share of our most recent immigrants. To politically manipulate the count and generate undercounts in border states to benefit interior states is also discrimination.

“Some our friends on the other side of the aisle profess to prefer a limited federal government. So why would they propose a big-government, expensive, time consuming, invasive and, last but certainly not least, discriminatory amendment to our Constitution?

“It's simple: this amendment is about shifting power by artificially altering the population in certain areas. The consequence, of course, is an inaccurate, insincere census count, a government that sends its resources to the wrong places, skewed representation and a loss of faith in leadership.

“This is about sacrificing 210 years of Constitutional practice and history, merely to increase short-term power – at the expense of millions of Americans and those that will soon be Americans.”