Texas Tea Party Sues Over Census Districts
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
NPR's Wade Goodwyn has this story from Dallas.
WADE GOODWYN: But a recently filed federal lawsuit in Texas wants to change this. It asserts, quote, "The inclusion of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Census might have the purpose and effect of strengthening the Hispanic vote. If so, this practice could violate the United States Constitution, the Voting Rights Act and the Texas Constitution."
WILLIAM GHEEN: We feel that illegal immigrants being counted for congressional apportionment is theft of political influence and power from innocent American citizens.
GOODWYN: So far, the lawsuit has flown mostly under the political radar in Texas, but it has being hailed as a national template by some anti-illegal immigration activists.
GHEEN: People in Maine and Vermont and South Carolina or Georgia, you should not have your political power, your political influence, reduced due to the mass lawlessness that's occurring because the federal government refuses to do the job they're supposed to.
GOODWYN: But constitutional law scholars say this proposed definition is too restrictive. Sam Issacharoff is one of the country's leading constitutional law experts and a professor at NYU.
SAM ISSACHAROFF: The census is done for the purpose of not only apportioning the Congress but for all sorts of things. You have to figure out how many schools you need in an area, you have to figure out how many hospitals you need, how much fire and police protection you need.
GOODWYN: Issacharoff says by far the biggest group of non-voters in Texas and across America is everyone under the age of 18. What about them? Would they count toward reapportionment as they have in the past?
ISSACHAROFF: If that is what this lawsuit is about, other than simply hostility to illegal aliens, the demand should be that persons under 18 years old not be counted or not be used in the apportionment.
GOODWYN: Texas is growing by leaps and bounds. However, nearly all of that growth is in the more liberal Texas cities, and much of it is Hispanic. But Hispanic leaders say that if you want to know what this is really all about you should turn your gaze from the courts to the capital in Austin.
MIKE VILLARREAL: This legislative session may be the most harmful session to Hispanics in history.
GOODWYN: Mike Villarreal is a state representative from San Antonio. Villarreal suspects that one purpose of this early census lawsuit is to try to establish a friendly conservative east Texas venue. He says the lawsuit is part of a multi- pronged assault from Tea Party politicians and the Texas GOP on Hispanics both illegal and legal, from new laws that will require that voters provide photo IDs to local law enforcement asking Texas Hispanics their citizenship status during routine stops.
VILLARREAL: There's a bill that will require public schools to interrogate school children, asking them to prove up their citizenship and then reporting that information to the state and to the feds. I believe we've counted over a dozen anti-immigrant bills.
GOODWYN: Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas.
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