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ENUMERATION OF UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS IN
THE DECENNIAL CENSUS
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 1985
SUBCOMMITTEE ON ENERGY, NUCLEAR
PROLIFERATION AND GOVERNMENT PROCESSES,
The subcommittee met at 2:06 p.m., in room SD-342, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hon. Thad Cochran (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Present: Senator Cochran.
OPENING STATEMENT OF SENATOR COCHRAN
Senator COCHRAN. The subcommittee will please come to order. I want to welcome you all here today for our hearing. This hearing is on the enumeration of undocumented aliens in the decennial
It is our intention to examine the practice of enumerating undocumented aliens and the legal history and requirements for enumeration, as well as legal alternatives.
The Constitution requires the apportionment of the House of Representatives among the States according to their respective numbers and establishes the decennial census to be carried out in such a manner as Congress directs. The Bureau of the Census has the responsibility of conducting the census and has made special efforts to ensure that an accurate and complete accounting of the Nation's population is accomplished.
This accounting has included undocumented aliens who are present in the United States.
I want to commend the Bureau of the Census for its diligence and commitment to fulfilling its responsibilities. But frankly, I am concerned about the fact that the U.S. House of Representatives is apportioned on the basis of an accounting of our population which includes persons who are not citizens, who don't have a right to vote.
I think it is important that we understand fully what the census practices are with respect to illegal aliens, persons who are not citizens, and what impact their inclusion in the decennial census has on the allocation of U.S. Representatives among the States.
No one really knows how many illegal aliens there are in the United States, but most agree that the number is large and increasing. Estimates have ranged from 2 to 12 million.
In the 1980 report to the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy, the Census Bureau estimated that in 1978, there were between 3 and 6 million illegal immigrants in the United States, with a growth rate of 250,000 to 500,000 per year.
Most recently, the Bureau has estimated that it counted over 2 million illegal immigrants in the 1980 census. That figure is only slightly less than the total population of the entire State of Mississippi, just as an aside.
Illegal immigration is a very important social issue confronting our country, and as everyone knows, we are working today to wrap up legislation to finalize our action on legislation reported out of the Judiciary Committee for immigration reform.
Whether our Constitution and laws require the enumeration and representation of undocumented aliens is a question that requires our careful examination.
So that we may obtain a better understanding of the facts and legalities surrounding the issue, we have invited representatives of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Bureau of the Census, and one of the country's legal scholars to present testimony to this hearing.
We have with us Executive Associate Commissioner Doris Meissner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; Robert Warren, Acting Director of Statistical Analysis, who will assist us at the hearing; and Dr. Jack Keane, Director of the Census Bureau, Peter Bounpane, Assistant Director for Demographic Censuses and Jeff Passel are here to explain enumeration procedures. Prof. John Noonan of the University of California, Berkeley, will discuss the legal side of the issue.
At this point in the record I would like to insert a statement by Senator Glenn, who was unable to be here today. [Senator Glenn's statement follows:]
OPENING STATEMENT OF SENATOR JOHN GLENN
Mr. Chairman. I wish to express my appreciation for the work you and your staff have done in beginning to focus on the complex issue of counting undocumented aliens in the Decennial Census.
I am familiar with this subject because it came up in hearings I conducted as chairman of this subcommittee some 5 years ago pertaining to the results of the 1980 Census. At that time, of course, the primary problem concerned "undercounts", but we did touch on the issue of enumeration of illegal aliens.
The decision of whether to count or not count undocumented aliens is one ripe with controversy. It touches on fundamental Constitutional issues. Of particular interest to me, and certainly to my colleagues, are the political impacts such as reapportionment and redistricting, plus the principle of "one man, one vote". As I've indicated before, some States obviously benefit when Congressional apportionment is determined on the basis of total population count, illegal aliens included, while other States claim this results in an imbalance in Congressional representation.
I think anytime we deal with fundamental Constitutional issues, we must tread delicately. There has been an on-going debate over the constitutionality of any legislative provision affecting the counting of illegal aliens and this issue remains far from settled. However, I am interested to note that one of our witnesses here today, through precedential Supreme Court decisions, has provided his interpretation that restrictions on counting undocumented aliens would be constitutionally permissible. Even if one assumes that these constitutional issues can be overcome, a far more pragmatic problem has to be dealt with. That is essentially the mechanics of operational and managerial procedures available to implement and enforce any such provision. I have a preliminary analysis from the Congressional Research Service made at my request which outlines possible operational approaches if it were decid
ed to exclude undocumented aliens from the Census count.1 The CRS report suggests three possible alternatives:
1. Exclude undocumented aliens from the census count by placing a notice on the questionnaire asking them not to complete it and instructing census workers not to include persons found to be undocumented aliens.
2. Include undocumented aliens in the census count but add a question that required them to identify themselves. Subsequently, remove them from the count used for the apportionment.
3. Do not change the field procedures but estimate the number of undocumented aliens counted in the census in each State and subtract that number from the State's count when apportionment is calculated.
While each of these methods has its distinctive advantages, each has its own inherent disadvantages. Certainly it may be possible to invent a more perfect means of accomplishing this objective. However, until we have reached that stage, it seems that each of the currently available methods has significant potential drawbacks. Finally, during one of my prior hearings on this issue, the then-Director of the Census Bureau, Mr. Vincent P. Barraba, testified that there was no truly reliable means or procedure to either estimate the total number of illegal aliens, and further, to exclude those people from the census count itself. That statement was made in 1980. However, I note that in 1983, the Census Bureau, did, in fact, issue a study which was prepared by one of the witnesses here today, Mr. Jeff Passel, which broke down State-by-State those illegal aliens who were included in the 1980 Census. I am anxious to hear about the specific procedures involved in the compilations of this report and to find out what new developments occurred in this 3-year interim to enable the Census Bureau to produce this report.
I look forward to being present with you, Mr. Chairman, to hear the testimony today on this most important subject.
Senator COCHRAN. I want to welcome the witnesses and express my appreciation for your being here and for your cooperation with the subcommittee. We received your statements, which we have reviewed, and for which we thank you very sincerely.
Now, I invite Doris Meissner and Robert Warren to come to the witness table.
We appreciate your being here and giving us the benefit of your statement concerning the legal requirements for enumerating illegal aliens. We invite you to present your testimony. You may abbreviate the written remarks. All of your statement will be included at this point in the record as if it had been verbally stated. Thank you for being here. You may proceed.
TESTIMONY OF DORIS MEISSNER, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATION COMMISSIONER, IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE, ACCOMPANIED BY ROBERT WARREN, ACTING DIRECTOR FOR STATISTICAL ANALYSIS
Mrs. MEISSNER. Thank you, Senator Cochran. On behalf of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, we are pleased to appear at this hearing, and in line with your suggestion, would ask that our testimony be admitted into the record, and I will briefly summarize.
I am accompanied by Robert Warren, who is, as you mentioned, the Acting Chief of our Statistical Analysis Branch and who will assist in answering questions as you ask them.
Our testimony addresses the history of and the current scope of illegal immigration into the United States. We are all proud, of course, of our heritage as a nation of immigrants. We continue to have an economic allure to people around the world, and the free
1See p. 64.