Tags: census | citizen | vitter | gop

GOP Senators Push Census Citizenship Rules

Monday, 19 Oct 2009 11:42 AM

By Dan Weil

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Republican Senators David Vitter of Louisiana and Bob Bennett of Utah have proposed putting a citizenship question in the 2010 Census.

Their amendment to a spending bill that includes money for the Commerce Department would prevent any spending on the Census if it doesn’t have a question about respondents’ citizenship status.

The Commerce Department oversees the Census Bureau. A similar plan has been proposed in the House of Representatives.

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The concern is that with census data used to determine how many congressional seats and how much federal money each state receives, states with immigrants who aren’t citizens will receive an unfair advantage.

"Certainly, Louisiana is directly impacted," Vitter told The Wall Street Journal. "We lost a seat in 2000."

In a statement last week, he said, “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.”

The change would cost the Census Bureau millions of dollars. It would have to reprint more than 425 million questionnaires, change software, produce new training materials and adjust promotional campaigns.

The proposal also could give life to a boycott of the Census that has been urged by some Latino leaders to protest overall immigration policy.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., criticized the Vitter amendment and a floor speech he made last week. "His delusional rant . . . is a perfect example of why today's Republican Party has transformed itself into a fringe party that only seeks to pander to its increasingly radical base," Reid's spokesman, Jim Manley, said in a statement.

A St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial argues against the change. “It would inject the volatile topic of immigration reform into a neutral, government-officiated process.”

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