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Eye Opener: Citizenship and the Census

By Ed O'Keefe

Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and Robert Bennett (R-Utah) want the Census Bureau to ask about citizenship status next year.

Eye Opener

Happy Friday! Should the 2010 Census account for a person's citizenship status? At least two Republican lawmakers think so, arguing the forthcoming Congressional reapportionment should not be swayed by illegal immigrants, who whose numbers will give more seats to certain states.

“If the current census plan goes ahead, the inclusion of non-citizens toward apportionment will artificially increase the population count in certain states, and that will likely result in the loss of congressional seats for nine other states, including Louisiana,” Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said in a statement issued Thursday.

Louisiana's embattled Republican senator wants senators from Iowa, Indiana, Mississippi, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Michigan, South Carolina, North Carolina to back his amendment, which could die as early as Friday when the Senate votes again for cloture on the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill.

Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) also backs the bill, after introducing a similar measure earlier this year. He told The Eye earlier this week that he didn't realize until only recently that Congressional reapportionment includes an accounting of non-citizens.

Though Bennett has no issue with the Census counting everyone living in the U.S. regardless of citizenship status, he does not want illegal immigrants to sway Congressional representation.

Census officials and outside observers warn that passage of the Vitter-Bennett amendment would mean billions of additional dollars spent to rewrite, reprint and redeliver Census questionnaires already printed and awaiting delivery. It would also require retraining. Basically, it would completely upend the 2010 Census planning process, which began five years ago.

Critics also point out that the Constitution only says the government must perform an "enumeration" and says nothing explicitly about citizenship. Some groups also see the Vitter-Bennett amendment as a direct affront to the 14th Amendment, which discusses "equal protection" and that House seats will be apportioned to the states "according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State." Nothing explicit there about citizenship, they say.

It's unclear how lawmakers will vote on the amendment, but Bennett told The Eye he intends to revive this issue yet again in the coming years if it fails this time. Chalk this up as yet another issue with the potential to seriously complicate the 2010 Census process. Stay tuned.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | October 16, 2009; 6:40 AM ET
Categories:  Census, Eye Opener  
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The Census should have always taken citizenship into consideration. Isn't it funny that for certain things the liberal left wants to hide behind the constitution like this case when it is convenient and most likely will benefit them. For others such things they just throw the constitution out the window by saying it is out dated and it need to change with the times. The founding fathers were very forward thinking. Show me any other document of this type that is this old and still in existence as the basis for law.

Posted by: SkierDude | October 16, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

If the issue of illegal immigration had been taken care of years ago this would not be an issue. Why is this issue so hard to fix? When you enter illegally and get caught you get sent back immediately (ACLU go @&^* your selves) no questions asked for a first offense. 2nd offense you are water boarded and then sent back. 3rd offense you are shipped to grizzly bear or polar bear country in Alaska, with no supplies and only the clothes you came here with (if in shorts too bad), if they survive this, shipped back to country of origin. People, REMEBER, THEY ARE HERE ILLEGALLY, THEY HAVE NO RIGHTS. Answer this question, if you entered some other country illegally what do you think would happen to you, no questions asked. Also if that country has a census, do you think that they are going to try and count you just as our cheating communist Democratic party wishes to happen here.

Posted by: SkierDude | October 16, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Now that control is in the hands of our dear Marxist leader, nothing will be done about it, and their bill will fail because Obama's buddies on the Hill want their states bailed out on the federal dime...

Is public hanging still an option for Treason? I cant imagine any jury NOT finding most of our Congress guilty at this point...

Posted by: ProveMeWrong | October 16, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

what about the prostitutes? Do they need to show citizenship?

Posted by: lhao333 | October 16, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Why should there be any doubt ! This is the American census, it is to count the number of Americans in America. The liberals just want to make sure they have more votes in congress and will do anything legal or not. If it's illegal they will make a law that will make it legal. If immigrants want to come to America then become an American citizen, you are welcome, if not go home.

Posted by: charlie448 | October 16, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

If these politicians are so interested in fairness in the Census count; then why don't they exclude prison populations for reapportionment purposes? Inmates don't vote; or use local services in the way that others counted in group quarters do, like college students.

These politicans are hypocrites. They don't want a good count that would expose how little they do in getting their states a fair share of federal money based on accurate population figures. Their constituents should look beyond the rhetoric spewed by these sad excuses for representatives; and vote for people who will truly represent their interests. The only thing these senators care about is being re-elected; no matter who gets cheated in the process.

Doing the Census count is hard enough without such silly, self-serving meddling after the fact. So much of this seems a veiled attack on potential minority voters - - where was all this self-righteous posturing when most illegal immigrants to this country were European? How many Irish, Poles, Russians, etc are asked if they are citizens? Try that in certain enclaves of places like NYC, Chicago, etc & see what response you'd get!

Posted by: ksun1 | October 16, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

It does not matter what the politicians want. Mr. O'Keefe clearly quoted the constitution up there and citizenship was not included. If the founding fathers wanted citizens only to be counted (which would not have counted women, children, and slaves at the time) they would have said so.

Sorry Senators from crappy states. Constitutionally mandated. Which is what the poor Bureau of the Census should now use as an all purpose "Bite me" to Congress.

It's hard enough to get the Census down with so many census takes facing real danger in many parts of the country that anyone stirring the pot should be ashamed of themselves!

Of course, if the Republicans can gain a couple seats, what are the lives of civil servants to them?

Posted by: Flidais | October 16, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

It's pretty simple. The census count that is used to set up congressional districts should only use legal U.S. residents. No illeagals should be counted for this purpose. If the census wants to do a seperate count of all persons including illegals just to get an idea of the total population legal and illegal in this country then I guess that's ok, although I think its a waste of money.

Posted by: RobT1 | October 16, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

I agree that the census should ask about citizenship status - and I am a liberal (e.g. I support single payer health care, voted for Obama, etc.). It is obvious that only citizens should be counted for apportionment - I have to agree with the Republicans on that one. Apportionment has to do with voting, and voting is something only for citizens.

Note that they are NOT proposing that the census ask about legal immigration status, only whether one is a citizen or not. Obviously, asking about legality would cause many illegal immigrants to fear participating in the census, and undermine the accuracy of the count.

Also, the census should be getting information on U.S. citizens who live outside the United States. There are millions of us, and we deserve representation in the U.S. Congress as well.

It is absurd that the census is more interested in illegal immigrants inside the United States than bona fide citizens who happen to live outside the country for a time.

Posted by: AnonymousBE1 | October 16, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

There's nothing new about this finagling with the numbers of U.S. inhabitants. Does anyone recall learning about the drafting of our Constitution and the successful maneuver by Southern politicians and supporters to count slaves, otherwise considered by Southerners to be chattel property, as three-fifths of a person?

Posted by: Watersville | October 16, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Actually Flidais, Mr. O'keefe only posted a PORTION of the Constitutional Amendment in question.

The first part of that Amendent defines citizenship. Part 2 then starts with the comment, but goes on to talk about citizenship.

Any, the actual amendment that these guys have proposed says that apportionment is based on citizenship, but FUNDING is based on actual persons in that area, citizens or not. So school funding, roads, etc are based on useage. Now..why are illegal immigrants allowed to use the schools? I don't know.

Posted by: gothamresident | October 16, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

This issue of counting or not counting the illegal aliens shouldn't even be an issue. The illegal aliens shouldn't even be here! You say, well they are. I say get rid of them! Illegal aliens are destroying our Country, and if you can't see that, you must have poor eyesight.

Illegal aliens have made America the dumping ground for all their illegal alien children, then we have to school them and give them free medical care.
I for one, am sick and tired of these illegal aliens snubbing their nose at our immigration laws and the many other laws of this Country. If our Federal Government can not ENFORCE our immigration laws, and get these illegal aliens out of this Country, then let the States do it! One way or another, an end has to come to this illegal immigration, and not with AMNESTY! Amnesty will only encourage more illegal aliens to invade our Country and reward those who broke our laws and raped the American taxpayer in many ways...depressing our wages, taking our jobs, overwhelming our schools with their ILLEGAL ALIEN children, driving without a license or car insurance, all the crime from stolen identities to rape, drugs and everything else.

It's time for ZERO TOLERENCE with these illegal aliens. It's time for them get out of this Country and back in their own Country where they belong. When we get rid of the illegal aliens, we will get rid of all the problems that go with them. THAT IS A FACT!

Posted by: scuncic | October 16, 2009 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone know what the Federalist Papers said in this area? It seems a bit of a stretch that the Founders could have anticipated a large number of non-citizens residing in the country. Further, since they went to great lengths to devalue slaves (3/5th of a person) in an effort to reduce the south's power, it would seem they would not have counted non-citizens for the purpose of apportionment. On the other side, were slaves counted as non-voting citizens or non-voting non-citizens?
It would be enlightening to count all residents as the constitution requires and to enumerate the non-citizens as well.

Posted by: imagasser | October 22, 2009 1:58 AM | Report abuse

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