In a quixotic move, the state of Alabama has sued the Census Bureau in an attempt to prevent undocumented immigrants from being counted in the U.S. Census. The suit contains some interesting, albeit dangerous, legal gymnastics. As you probably know, the census counts people to, in part, determine how voting districts are drawn. Added to the Constitution after the Civil War, the 14th Amendment requires that Congressional districts are divided “according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State…” After the abolition of slavery and the Three-Fifths Compromise, the “whole number of persons” instruction sounds pretty clear, right? To get around that, Alabama is arguing that “illegal aliens” are not “persons” for the purposes of the 14th Amendment. If you recall from the first century or so of American history, this isn’t the first time Alabama has argued that certain classes of humans are not legally considered “persons.” Let’s not repeat that mistake.

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