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Vitter Seeks to Block Count of Non-Citizens, Despite High Cost, Constitution, & Damage to Census

by Greg Staff on 10/16/2009 at 4:36pm

As Andrea Nill reports in “Vitter Vs. The Constitution: Louisiana Senator Pushes Amendment To Prevent Census Count Of Non-Citizens,” over at the Wonk Room:

Over the past couple of weeks, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) has been trying to sell his and Sen. Robert Bennett’s (R-UT) amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill which would require the US Census Bureau to add a question about citizenship to its 2010 survey.

That’s right, as the appropriations process drags on through Congress, Republicans in both the House and the Senate continue to offer immigration related amendments meant to stall passage of these annual bills which provide the funding for important government functions and programs such as the national defense and crime prevention programs. 

As we reported last week, the amendment as originally drafted sought to require the U.S. Census bureau to include questions about immigration status in the 2010 Census. 

This amendment is misguided—and expensive.  It would completely derail the 2010 Census.  It would waste $7 billion in research, planning, and preparation that has already occurred for Census 2010. 

It also raises critical Constitutional concerns, as the Constitution and the 14th amendment call for an accurate portrait of America based on the whole number of persons in every state in every decennial Census.  This amendment would diminish that mandate because it will raise concerns among all respondents – both native-born and immigrant – about the confidentiality and privacy of information provided to the government.

The opposition to this amendment has been strong.  Eight former directors of the U.S. Census Bureau, both Democrat and Republican, have expressed their opposition to Senator Vitter’s amendment in a statement highlighting how the addition of a question on immigration status would derail next year’s census.  Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said, “it’s too late to shift gears.”   The spokesman for the U.S. Census Bureau , David Byerman, stated, “if this amendment were to pass we would be imperiled not to meet our statutory deadline of being able to get a final head count by December 31 of next year, which is required by law.”

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