California could lose a seat in the House of Representatives and some Congressional districts could lose population if the millions of illegal immigrants living in the state, which has the largest number of illegal immigrants by far, aren’t counted in the 2020 census.
Oddly enough, California could improve its chances of holding onto that seat if more illegal immigrants come to the state and are counted in the census. Maybe that plays a part in California’s decision to be a Sanctuary State.
The U.S. Census Bureau attempts to count all persons in the U.S. living in residential structures, including prisons, dormitories and similar “group quarters” in the official decennial census. People counted must include citizens, legal immigrants, non-citizen long-term visitors and illegal (or undocumented) immigrants.
This approach was endorsed by the U.S. Supreme Court in April 2016 in EVENWEL ET AL. v. ABBOTT, GOVERNOR OF TEXAS, ET AL, where the Court rejected counting just eligible voters in determining legislative districts.
Efforts in Congress to change this approach have failed to date.
Accordingly, a low number of illegal immigrants counted by the Census in one state may result in that state losing some representation in Congress while high illegal immigration into another state that is counted in the Census can enlarge that state’s representation.
A research report by Election Data Services released Dec. 26, 2017, concluded, “…California is very close to actually losing a congressional seat in 2020, the first time that state will have lost a seat in its nearly 160-year history.” It could lose the seat because “for the last several decades California’s population growth has been relatively flat when compared to other states.”
That makes it even more important to Democrats that everybody is counted. Democrats are worried that if foreign immigration into California slows under Trump, and legal and illegal immigrants don’t step up in the 2020 census, that could hold down the state’s total population count and the count in individual Congressional districts.
Oregon could gain a seat
The Election Data Services report also concluded that, based on new Census Bureau population estimates for 2017 released on Dec. 26, 2017, 12 states clearly will be affected by changes in their congressional delegation if the new numbers were used for apportionment today.
New York, West Virginia, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania are projected to lose a seat in Congress using the new data.
On the other hand, Oregon is projected to gain a House seat, as well as Colorado, Florida and North Carolina. Texas will gain two seats based on the new data.
Since 1941, by law the number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives has been capped at 435, so if a given state gains a House seat then another state must lose one.
NOTE: For more discussion on counting illegal immigrants in the U.S. Census, see Constitutionality of Excluding Aliens from the Census for Apportionment and Redistricting Purposes, Congressional Research Service Report.