‘Biggest corruption:' Is Elon Musk right about undocumented migrants in US Census?


Fact Box

  • Elon Musk is a South African-born American immigrant and CEO/founder of several companies, including Tesla and Space X. Musk purchased Twitter, later rebranded as X, in 2022 for almost $44 billion. His net worth is around $200 billion.
  • On March 8, responding to a failed amendment to “stop illegal aliens from being counted in apportionment for congressional districts and the Electoral College,” Musk tweeted, “Most Americans do not know that the US census currently counts, for purposes of voting power, all people in a district, regardless of citizenship!” On March 10, responding to an X poll about this, he replied, “This is the biggest corruption of American democracy in the 21st century.” 
  • Regarding unauthorized immigrants, the US Census Bureau confirms “all people (citizens and noncitizens) with a usual residence in the United States are included in the resident population for the census.” Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution requires “an apportionment of representatives among the states [to] be carried out every 10 years.”
  • Each congressional seat equals one electoral vote in presidential elections, which are distributed 'based on the congressional representation for each state.' 
  • CBP data shows over 7.2 million undocumented migrants are estimated to have entered the US under Biden’s presidency.

Andrew (No)

In saying that our constitutionally mandated task of counting every person living in America is '[the] biggest corruption of American democracy in the 21st century,' Elon Musk displays his love of hyperbole and his tenuous grasp on reality for one simple reason: undocumented immigrants are not allowed to vote. Counting them may mean some areas gain more representation, but undocumented immigrants are not among the population that explicitly elects the individuals who will represent them in Washington; only citizens will vote. 

Congress has the power of the purse, which means that our elected representatives decide how our tax dollars are spent. Therefore, representation must match population size so that public interests and services can be voted on, acquired, and distributed fairly. Areas with high numbers of undocumented people deserve to have a voice in deciding the services they need to aid both their documented and undocumented populations.

The Constitution clearly states that every ten years, Congress must account for every person living in America. It doesn't specify natural-born citizen, immigrant, or undocumented; it simply says every person living in America must be counted. This concept of counting people to determine representation is a feature that was novel at the founding of our democracy, where the majority of censuses previous to the American model were used solely for taxation purposes. Further, our Census is used to help determine how funds are allocated, so knowing how many people, documented or not, are living in an area is critical to funding services. Elon Musk has a long track record of fear-mongering around immigration, including pushing the outrageous replacement theory. Despite his efforts, undocumented immigrants are a reality in America, and the Census has nothing to do with it. 

Takashi (Yes)

Elon Musk is right to sound the alarm—via X posts and interviews—on how and why illegal immigration is impacting our democratic electorate. Illegal immigration, especially now that it's impacting US Census data, is a contentious issue with far-reaching implications. One significant concern is the distorted representation resulting from including illegal immigrants in the Census. While it's argued that areas with high undocumented populations should receive the resources and political representation required to increase the apportionment of much-needed social services, it is an imbalance that undeniably impacts the apportionment of the electorate and house seats as well. Electoral votes are determined by population size, regardless of whether the population is here legally.

Perhaps more alarmingly, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) estimates that nearly 7.3 million illegal aliens currently reside inside the US since Biden limits immigration officials from deporting those entering the country illegally. Those numbers should be astounding to anyone paying attention, as populations of that size vastly outnumber 36 states. Including these massive populations of illegal immigrants into the Census quite literally 'threatens our democracy' and is a corruption of the highest order seemingly designed to keep Democrats securely in place, as Musk also pointed out via video. Immigrants are and will continue to be incentivized to cross into America's open borders, where they will be given taxpayer-provided phones, transportation, government services, and are even permitted to vote in some areas. They can stay all without the threat of deportation, even after committing violent crimes and murders against Americans. Counting them in the Census will undoubtedly increase representative and electoral votes in Blue states and districts that swing in that party's favor. It is an issue Republicans have tried and should continue to rectify.

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