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Politicizing the census: Immigration used as a wedge issue yet again

census

The upcoming census has devolved into a debate about immigration. Sounds familiar, right?  Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) has introduced amendment 2644 to the upcoming census reapportionment bill that will cut off funding for the 2010 Census unless an 11th question is added. Can you guess what that 11th question is about? You got it, the GOP’s ever-ready bogey man, undocumented immigrants.

Vitter wants to ensure that only citizens are counted during the Census. The New York Times today lays out exactly why this would not only waste tons of money, but would derail the Census process entirely.

As required by law, the Census Bureau gave Congress the exact wording of the survey’s 10 questions in early April 2008 — more than 18 months ago. Changing it now to meet Mr. Vitter’s demand would delay the count, could skew the results and would certainly make it even harder to persuade minorities to participate.

It would also be hugely expensive. The Commerce Department says that redoing the survey would cost hundreds of millions of dollars: to rewrite and reprint hundreds of millions of census forms, to revise instructional and promotional material and to reprogram software and scanners.

During debates in the Senate, Mr. Vitter said that his aim is to exclude noncitizens from population totals that are used to determine the number of Congressional representatives from each state. He is ignoring the fact that it is a settled matter of law that the Constitution requires the census to count everyone in the country, without regard to citizenship, and that those totals are used to determine the number of representatives.

In summary, not only is it already law that EVERYONE be counted, but Vitter is politicizing the 2010 Census for his own gain. NDN has a great information page about the Vitter amendment, where I found this succinct summary of Vitter’s hyprocrisy:

Earlier this year, several Republican senators expressed outrage over the perception that the new White House Administration was playing politics with the Census. The outrage was so deep that US Senator Judd Gregg withdrew his nomination as US Secretary of Commerce citing concerns over this perception to politicize the Census. Now these very same Republican Senators are resorting to the very same techniques they decried earlier this year. This amendment only serve serves to politicize and delegitimize what is expected to be a very nonpartisan process. The result could cost billions of dollars, and will complicate efforts to inform and prepare state and local governments for the changing demography and characteristics of this nation.

Yet again, immigrants are being thrown under the bus in an attempt at partisan politics. [Insert my constant reminder of the need for comprehensive immigration reform to avoid such political quagmires here].

Also, I think its worth adding that if this bill were to pass it would lead to widespread non-participation from immigrants communities, regardless of immigration status.

Adding a new question about citizenship would further ratchet up suspicions that the census is being used to target undocumented immigrants. That would discourage participation not only among people who are here illegally but also their families and friends who may be citizens and legal residents. That leads to an inaccurate count.

The bill will be voted on this Wednesday. To take action to defeat Vitter’s bill, check out the Reform Immigration FOR America campaign’s click to fax/email page.

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