Eye Opener: Citizenship and the Census
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.
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