Fear results in unexpected consequences

Aurora Donnelly is a solo practitioner who writes regularly for the Attorneys in Transition site.

Whatever your politics, are you surprised at what has happened with response to the census since the Arizona immigration enforcement bill passed? AP reports that Arizona, California, Florida, Texas, and New York have turned in such low census numbers that they will be losing out on House seats or will not be expanding their Congressional representation as planned.

Latino residents make up more than 50 percent of total growth since 2000 and their failure to return the mailed census in those five states could cause California and New York to lose one or two House seats each. Texas could gain three instead of four House seats. Arizona and Florida could pick up a few less seats than they had expected.

The thinking is that the low census form return numbers are a result of immigrants’ fear of disclosing themselves in case they are singled out for some negative action, following the passage of the Arizona bill. I believe this is true even of immigrants that are in the U.S. legally. By the time you are arrested and things get sorted out you can have suffered severe indignities and monetary losses.

It is interesting that when things get out of balance, i.e., extreme measures or laws, something else goes askew, often something that you have not considered. Maybe it is the world’s way of evening things out, who knows. In nature all things seek balance and maybe that extends to social issues.

I became a lawyer because I thought the best way to improve societal conditions was through reasonable and fair laws. I still think that and I have a firm belief that as time goes on, our laws have a way of evening out disparities and coming to the right conclusions. Sometimes it can take a very long time, though.

On the other hand extreme measures do prompt discussion and even polemic and probably get people more involved with the governing of their country, which, in a democracy, is a necessity. Having a general public interested in the Constitution and causing people to examine their opinions is a way of making us smarter about principles that matter in our lives. True, sometimes those opinions are based on misinformation and propaganda, but it is a start.

Ultimately ironic is that some of the states that have the greatest illegal immigration “problem” are the ones that are going to lose legislative power through diminished representation from incomplete census numbers. So those very same states that may need the greatest law-making power for resolving the very difficult illegal immigration issue will be the ones that lose some of that power.

As to the low census numbers and the untoward result: of course it is not surprising under the circumstances that the census response is low where there are the greatest numbers of Latinos, but the ultimate effect on Congressional representation numbers is not one whose paradoxical ramifications I had anticipated.


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