The proposed Sparks–Capper Amendment to the Constitution sought to exclude non-citizens in the apportionment of congressional representation. Citizens of Long Island, New York, signed their names to this petition addressed to their Representative Robert Bacon, asking him to support the amendment. The amendment, House Joint Resolution 356, was introduced by Kansas Representative Charles Sparks. Senator Arthur Capper of Kansas introduced Senate Joint Resolution 12 with the same language.
The results of the 1930 Census raised concern in the states about the potential effect of non-citizen residents on a state’s representation in Congress. It was believed that some states had lost representation in Congress while states with large immigrant populations had gained it. As the petitioners noted, contemporaneous news reports claimed that 7.5 million non-citizen residents in the United States were counted when apportionment was determined for each state. The Daily Courier of Connellsville, Pennsylvania, summarized the fears that led to the introduction of the Sparks–Capper Amendment: “Manifestly such an arrangement cannot be continued in force and effect if our national legislature is to remain American in sentiments, interests and sympathies.”
Like citizens, many non-citizens paid taxes, owned property, and contributed to their communities. Nonetheless, in their report on the resolution, the majority of the Judiciary Committee asserted that the constitutional purpose of the House of Representatives was to represent the people of the United States, and non-citizens, by definition, were not a part of this group. The committee’s minority disagreed, stating that the proposed amendment was unconstitutional because, regardless of citizenship status, representation must be based on the entire population of the state.
The Sparks–Capper amendment was reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee, but did not come up for a vote by the full House.