In Houston, redrawing maps without noncitizens could amount to a political sea change. Removing noncitizens from redistricting calculations would force immigrant-rich districts like Houston’s 29th to expand their borders to make up for the loss of population. Those districts are generally Democratic strongholds, and expanding them would often mean absorbing constituents from adjacent Republican areas. Districts with few noncitizens, on the other hand, would have to shrink.
The noncitizens, of course, would not simply vanish. They would continue to use government services like schools and utilities, and would rely — as many do now — on elected officials for all kinds of help. Politicians in immigrant-rich districts would have to represent them as well as the expanded number of citizens that were their legal constituency.
Roughly one in 10 Texans is a noncitizen, but according to unpublished data from the Pew Research Center, the corresponding figure in metropolitan Houston is closer to one in six — 1.1 million of 6.8 million residents, a half-million of them undocumented.
Andrew Beveridge, a sociologist at the City University of New York, this month estimated the degree of change that citizen-only redistricting would require in every congressional and state legislative district nationwide. He concluded that the 29th Congressional District would have to grow to take in nearly 120,000 new citizens, more than a fifth of the citizens currently in the district.
Here, the overwhelming majority of noncitizens are from Mexico, Central America or the Caribbean. Many are undocumented. But many others are applying for citizenship, have green cards or hold an array of visas — and, in many if not most ways, are indistinguishable from their citizen neighbors.
Texas legislators say they often receive requests for help from noncitizens. Some are seeking relief from the damage wrought on their homes in 2017 by Hurricane Harvey, help for relatives in trouble with the law, and more.
Carol Alvarado, a Democrat, represents Texas’s Sixth State Senate District, which largely overlaps the 29th Congressional District — except that, with 850,000 constituents, it is even bigger than a House seat. Only one in 10 residents is white and non-Hispanic; the rest are largely Latinos.
“We’re constantly helping noncitizens with issues related to our health care system, people who need assistance in trying to become citizens,” she said. “People here are hard-working, they’re doing jobs that a lot of other people won’t do, and they’re contributing to the economy. They pay taxes, and they buy goods and services. They deserve to be counted.”
This content was originally published here.