On Monday, the State of Louisiana filed with the United States Supreme Court its lawsuit to save the state’s seventh seat in the U. S. House of Representatives.  A summary of Louisiana’s case was posted yesterday on the official SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) blog, here.
Nearly three years ago, while drinking my favorite coffee concoction in my favorite chair at my favorite Barnes & Noble, I phoned Dr. John Baker, my friend who just happens to be a constitutional scholar, hoping he could answer a question I had arrived at in my study of this subject.  John and I had met and worked together as pro bono consultants with the “old” Louisiana Ethics Board a bit over a year earlier, and though our work on that issue ended when we ran afoul of Governor Bobby Jindal’s political op called “ethics reform,” we had stayed in touch.

My question to Dr. Baker was deceptively simple, worded just about exactly this way:  “How in the world can the Census Bureau include non-citizens in decennial Census numbers that determine reapportionment of the U. S. House of Representatives?”   I thought at the time that I probably should have known the Census Bureau had been doing this for a long time, but the more research we did, the more we learned how few people knew or even thought about it.  Without the explosion of undocumented migrants moving into America over the past 15 years or so, these statistical red flags in Census Bureau data would not have appeared.

As we learned, most people assumed one had to be a U. S. citizen to be counted in a decennial census.  Not only was that not the case, but to make things even more maddening, the Census Bureau had for some time been purposefully failing to determine which Census respondents were, or were not, citizens.  With a closely estimated 23,000,000 non-citizens in the country when our work began, it seemed a very big deal.  (Many of that number are in the nation legally, but those who are not constitute a segment more than large enough to cost Louisiana and four other states a U. S. House seat.)

Regardless of the many – mostly political partisans – who pooh-poohed our concern, the State of Louisiana had the maximum amount of skin in the game:  after having lost a congressional seat in reapportionment after the 1990 Census, we were about to lose another one.  Yes, our population out-migration wounds have all been self-inflicted, but this seemed like piling-on.  The simple fact was and is this:  Louisiana has many, many fewer unauthorized immigrants than other states – especially next-door neighbor Texas – so in the Census Bureau’s reapportionment math, Louisiana and like states are penalized.  When the smoke cleared after the 2010 Census, immigrant-rich Texas and California each gained two additional House seats, Florida gained one, and Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina and Ohio each lost one seat.

In August 2009, Dr. Baker and I had progressed far enough in our work to write an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal (attached).  We quickly learned that the substance of our work was lost in the hyper-partisan American political world.  That our case was viewed precisely along partisan lines jumped at us from the polar opposite stands taken by our state’s own two U. S. senators.  To further document the underlying math of our case, Republican Senator David Vitter, unsolicited, tried to have a citizenship question added to the 2010 census questionnaire.  His effort, via direct Senate action, died for lack of a single vote in the key procedural action on the Senate floor.  Casting the 60th and last required vote against Senator Vitter’s effort, and all the work to save a Louisiana congressional seat, was “our own” Democrat Senator Mary Landrieu.

Senator Landrieu’s vote was then, and remains, very difficult to fathom.  Owing to the rule that “things can always get worse,” they did.  A short time later, “our own” Republican governor’s support was also inexplicably withdrawn.  Although Attorney General Buddy Caldwell shortly thereafter joined Governor Jindal in the jump overboard from our Good Ship Louisiana, Caldwell later reversed course, and is the lead plaintiff in the Petition before the Supreme Court, both as Attorney General of Louisiana, and individually.

Joining Dr. Baker in Louisiana’s legal corner are David Rivkin, Jr. and Andrew Grossman of Baker & Hostetler, LLP, in Washington, DC.  Their masterful effort has been pro bono, owing both to their relationship with Dr. Baker and their view of the importance of the related and long standing Constitutional issues.  Also, given that this work rose above my “demographic analyst” slot a ways back, I personally worked earlier this year in recruiting to the effort Dr. Troy Blanchard, Associate Professor of Sociology at LSU, and a Research Associate in the Center for Economic Studies in the Census Bureau.  I have for many years studied – and professionally “borrowed,” with attribution of course – Troy’s broad and deep knowledge of Louisiana demography.

To me, it is outrageous that America continues to give undocumented foreign nationals representation in the U. S. House of Representatives.  The remedy sought in the lawsuit is just common sense, and, I think, morally dead-center:  solely for the purpose of apportioning seats in the U. S. House of Representatives, back-out anyone who is in the country illegally, then do the reapportionment math.  As I know, however, what I deem logical and just and morally correct may no longer be of adequate concern in America to provoke a U. S. Supreme Court review and decision.

If that be the case, my original question of Dr. Baker that day on the phone in Barnes & Noble will have been answered, and a new one will take its place:  if representation in the U. S. House of Representatives is a gift to those who are foreign nationals and in America illegally – how do we explain the resulting formal and official devaluation of citizenship in the greatest nation in world history?

Elliott Stonecipher
Evets Management Services, Inc.
6658 Youree Drive
Suite 180, #367
Shreveport, LA  71105
Phone:  318-424-1695