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Opinion: Who do we count?
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My hard-working neighbor and your hard-working neighbor may be disenfranchised. On the other hand my neighbor and your neighbor is subject to the scrutiny of the Constitution. Recently the Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the Constitution requires only eligible voters be counted when forming “legislative districts.” The lawsuit’s goal is to remove noncitizens and illegal immigrants from the legislative district count. Some find this disturbing while others say it is justified. In addition, the Supreme Court may also consider other nonvoters such as minors, felons and even people who have not registered. Others say if they are ineligible to vote why are they counted as a potential vote?

This massive shift could especially dilute entire Hispanic communities’ representation and devastate the Latino voting power and other minorities. Adhering to our Constitution is important and we must find a way to bridge the voices of many and seek outcomes that are fair, just and humane but Constitutionally sane. Finally, many say the drawing of these legislative districts is fair game and is a deterrent to those who seek to break them. Although I am not sure what the voice of the highest court of the land will ultimately say, here are some of my thoughts.

Immigration is woven into the fabric of our nation. However, how do we manage this activity in a humane way that is fair to all people? The Voting Rights Act signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 aimed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented African Americans from exercising their right to vote under the 15th Amendment to the Constitution. Next, voting districts and maps are aggressively being skewed towards a specific political party which decreases or completely eliminate external party and internal party competition. This oftentimes leads to a comfortable protection for incumbents. The voice of many at that time is muffled.

Voting is what makes us American and the Voting Rights Act continues to battle with challenges. The argument is that non-citizens should be counted for apportionment purposes yet they cannot participate in the political process and cannot vote. Although others in their geographic areas benefit from this vast population, they are restricted from the political process. 

The problem is illegal immigrants cannot vote, pay into social security, nor participate in the political process yet they contribute much to the infrastructure and fabric of our country. This reminds me of the Three-Fifths Clause or Compromise where the slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person for purposes of determining how much representation a state enjoys in Congress. Thus states could essentially pad their population numbers, gain extra representatives even though the enslaved people were completely powerless. Some states with large illegal immigrant populations of residents can wield extra political power yet these residents are powerless and unable to vote but because they live in the same state with a large number of non-citizens who are disproportionately Latino while others reap the benefits.

Every American stands to benefit from legalizing immigration regardless of your race, nationality, socio-economic level or political affiliation. First, there are currently over 8 million illegal immigrants employed in the U.S. representing about 5.2 percent of the overall U.S. labor force. Without this undocumented labor population, entire industries in some states would dry up like a “massive drought” creating a thirst for workers and a funnel of negative economic consequences. This dramatic outcome would exist if all the illegal immigrants were deported.

 A small percentage of native-born Americans may be harmed by illegal immigration. However, the facts clearly indicate that more Americans benefit from the contributions of illegal immigrants. While most would argue that this subject is still highly debatable, however a quick glimpse and understanding of our tax structure clearly indicates the vast contributions made by immigrants make to our economy. Most may not be familiar with the tax or fiscal impact of immigration. Massive tax revenues can be generated from legalizing immigration as well as lowering consumer prices. The benefits that results from increasing the tax base are almost limitless. For example, road, bridges, policemen, firemen, schools, hospitals, sidewalks, parks etc. all thrive from tax revenues. 

The Social Security Administration claims that undocumented workers have contributed close to 10 percent or $30 billion to the Social Security fund. This economic impact of an undocumented worker cannot continue to be ignored if we want to continue to thrive as a nation. Yet, breaking the law cannot be accepted as common.  In 1787 a legal path was plowed with a compromise for the slaves to be counted. As legislation debates continue to heat up one central point of contention will surely be how to create a pathway to legal status for almost 11 million undocumented immigrants and 8.3 million of them are actively employed. Think of all the tax revenue that we are losing as a nation. The generation of tax revenue would create jobs for thousands of unemployed. Immigration reform would raise GDP per capita and create an increased labor force. GDP is raised when we have more people working and more people working efficiently. When one estimates the combined economic benefits immigration is worth a compromise.

How do they gain political power with no vote? Yet, they cannot vote, have no voice and are destined to be a loud force to reckon with. For many states undocumented workers are the fate for continued economic growth. Although they have no official voice, they have clout. The Latino population is growing across the US.

Finally, the undocumented worker is the fate for continued economic growth. Although short of a strong recognized official voice the voice of the unofficial will surely rise to the top. 

Although we are losing billions of dollars in tax revenue from illegal immigration; let me remind you that that we are collecting billions also. First, even unauthorized immigrants pay sales taxes, property taxes if they rent and some even pay state and local income taxes. Many of our social and non-social programs need these dollars.


Diane Adoma is a small business owner, a member of the Conyers Rotary Club, and former legislative candidate. She can be reached at