Rule of Law

Will Supreme Court End Political Subsidy to Aliens?

The United States Supreme Court has been asked to end a political subsidy to aliens through the use of alien population in allocating legislative seats. In a case arising out of the decision by Texas to count aliens — illegal and legal — in drawing legislative districts, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether using aliens violates the principle of “one person, one vote.”

The case is Evenwel vs. Abbott.

Currently, many states count aliens when establishing the population of legislative districts, therefore diluting the legislative clout of citizens. Legislative districts — whether for Congress, a state legislature, or a county council — must be more or less equal in population.

The case before the Supreme Court will decide what population must be used to calculate that “population.” If Texas prevails, illegal aliens and noncitizens may be counted. This means areas with high alien population will dilute the legislative clout of areas where the residents are almost all citizens.

For example, assume every legislative district must have roughly 10,000 people. A district with 5,000 aliens and 5,000 citizens might receive one legislative seat. A district with 10,000 American citizens might receive another legislative seat.  The district with the heavy alien population has 5,000 citizens getting a vote in a legislature while the other district where all 10,000 residents are American citizens would get the same legislative vote.


The implications for the American political landscape are profound.  Presently, in places like Texas, California, Arizona, and elsewhere, aliens are enjoying a political subsidy in legislative bodies — and in Congress.

The practice offends the concept of “one person, one vote,” a term which derives from the 1964 Supreme Court case Reynolds vs. Sims. Back then, Alabama gave rural counties the same voice in the Alabama Senate that the most urban and populated counties enjoyed. The Supreme Court said that practice offended the 14th Amendment’s promise of Equal Protection and the principle of “one person, one vote.” It ruled Alabama had to have equal population in each Senate district.

The impact of Reynolds in 1964 was the termination of the political subsidy enjoyed by rural areas, and a massive shift of power to urban America.

Now, areas with high alien populations enjoy the same political subsidy that rural areas of Alabama once enjoyed.

The defenders of this status quo make many of the same arguments Alabama made and which the Supreme Court rejected. Most notably, they characterize the decisions to use aliens to allocate power as a political question beyond the reach of the Supreme Court.

Kaylan Phillips of the Public Interest Legal Foundation (of which I am counsel) has filed a brief on behalf of the American Civil Rights Union asking the Court to terminate the political subsidy to aliens in the United States. The ACRU brief states:

Just as this Court ended the artificial political subsidy to rural voters in Reynolds, so should it end the artificial political subsidy to those voters who live in areas with dense concentrations of non-citizens.

Even the United States Department of Justice uses citizen population when drawing legislative districts in Voting Rights Act lawsuits. So should Texas and every other legislative body.

Aliens shouldn’t be given any voice in state legislatures, especially when it takes away the political clout of American citizens. Citizens deserve to have that their votes counted equally and not diluted by illegal aliens in creating legislative districts.

Pay attention to the groups most loudly defending the status quo. Groups like the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund reveal a great deal about what sort of America they want to live in. It’s an America that dilutes the voices of citizens and props up the political power of people who came to the United States illegally. The Supreme Court will decide next term whether the law-abiding must continue to sacrifice more for the lawless when drawing legislative lines.