Over at the Corner, Abigail Thernstrom reminds us to be sure to fill out our census forms. She also argues that the question of counting residents who are here in violation of our laws is moot, since "the U.S. Constitution demands an enumeration of all free persons, excluding Indians "not taxed," and with slaves counted as only three-fifths of a person."
The issue is more complicated than that. The U.S. Constitution, like any legal document, needs to be construed according to the logic of the provision in the larger context of the document. In 1789, the catagory illegal alien did not exist. Hence the question is whether illegal aliens are more like citizens or Indians. Since Indians were excluded precisely because they were not citizens, and were subject to the laws of their own tribes, one can make a very sound argument that illegal aliens ought not to be counted. (By the same logic, of course, the idea that anyone born on U.S. soil is a citizen also does not hold water, if one reads the 14th Amendment closely. I suspect that's part of the reason why Justice Harlan, famouse for his dissent from Plessy, also dissented from the birthright citizenship case).
One further point on the census. The purpose of the census is to determine the political population of the states so that the House of Representatives can be apportioned properly. That being the case, may Congress rightly require us to fill out any other questions? (I realize that according to the Courts, the answer is yes, but, once again, I think they are wrong here).
P.S. It is also interesting to note that the race box on the census is done according to whatever standard the citizen wants to check off. Some employers, however, have definitions for each of the categories, which they give to prospective employees when they apply for jobs. Hence there could be a problem in evidence in disparate impact cases. The two sets of data, might not register the same thing. Personally, I wish that everyone simply boycotted the race box, as that would render disparate impact suits impossible.
P.P.S. Just thought of this. If the census' standard is self-categorization, could employees exercise their right to categorize themselves by race, and check off various race boxes, and hence change the percentage of "minorities" who work for various employers?