Making the intellectual link between slavery and illegal immigration isn't hard.
Considering the number of instances in which unscrupulous employers have refused to pay known undocumented workers or have called immigration officials the day before payday, one could equate those scammed hardworking employees with slaves 200 years ago.
But even intellectually there's a major difference: Slaves, clearly understanding their status, never expected to get paid.
Set aside intellectualism for a moment and consider that there are real discussions today about illegal immigrants similar to those debates about slaves shortly after this country's founding.
The main question is, When it comes to counting people for reapportionment in Congress, who should be included in that number?
In 1787, slaves were not considered citizens. Heck, to some people, slaves weren't even humans. But the Southerners wanted to use their growing numbers to get their states greater reprsentation in the U.S. House of Representatives. It was a discussion that began in 1783 with the amending of the Articles of Confederation.
Today, especially after the new U.S. Census figures showed a dramatic increase in the number of Hispanics, there is a screeching cry that illegal immigrants should not be counted for the purpose of redistricting.
The solution 224 years ago was the "Three-fifths Compromise," in which five slaves would represent three people for reapportionment purposes, resulting in Southern states getting a hefty increase in their number of congressional representatives.
For years, many black people argued that our founders had codified that slaves were "less-than-human" by declaring them three-fifths of a man. That was not the intent, but that is how it was interpreted.
No one is suggesting that kind of bizarre mathematical formula today, but there is a contingent out there advocating that illegal immigrants -- and legal foreign residents for that matter -- not be included for redistricting. These critics claim that several states, including Texas, have gained one or more additional seats in Congress because of large undocumented populations.
Texas will gain four new congressional seats based on the 2010 Census, and much of that growth was fueled by the increase in the Hispanic population, up 41.8 percent since 2000. The number of illegal immigrants in Texas is estimated at 1.6 million out of the total state population of 25.1 million.
The key word is "estimated." You see, while the Constitution in Article I, Section 2, calls for a decennial count of people living in the country, it doesn't say count only "citizens" or "legal residents." The census questionnaire doesn't ask about citizenship.
But let's face it, these new arguments are not out of concern for adequate representation in Congress. They are rooted in the age-old anti-immigrant sentiments that have been spreading across the nation for some time.
Those who want to "take our country back" need enemies or convenient targets around which to rally their troops. The illegal immigrant, as well as the liberal, the Muslim or anyone else who might be different, fits the bill.
Rather than spending time on lobbying to prevent undocumented immigrants from being counted for reapportionment, these zealots ought to be focused on making sure that redistricting is done fairly, without the usual gerrymandering to protect party and incumbency.
I know that's naive, for there will be the usual attempts to dilute ethnic minority voting strength, as well as to further weaken the political minority in a given state.
The political party in power in any state will only attempt to increase that power. It's as natural as Texas bluebonnets blooming in the spring.
Still, we can hope that our leaders would rise above their usual pettiness and do what's best for all the people rather than their own special interests.
In Texas, that would mean the creation of at least another predominantly Hispanic congressional district and probably another predominantly black district.
And that certainly can be done without coming up with a three-fifths compromise.