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Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Robert Bennett (R-UT) are counting on fear to prevent undocumented immigrants from participating in the 2010 census. First, they proposed an amendment to add an inquiry about immigration status on the Census Bureau questionnaires as a way to discourage the undocumented from participating. As a rationale for their 21st century three-fifths compromise, David Vitter stated:
“States that have large populations of illegals would be rewarded for that. Other states, including my home state of Louisiana, would be penalized.”
Much has been said about how undercounting would lead to an inaccurate assessment. Undercounting the undocumented does not mean that they do not exist. Census data is used to reapportion congressional seats in addition to dividing up billions amongst states on the basis of population. Giving less money to a state such as California does a gross disservice to everyone in the state, and not just the undocumented population, since the state would face greater budgetary shortfalls.
When Vitter and Bennett came under fire from civil rights organizations and the Census Bureau, the Senators changed the amendment to simply requesting country of citizenship. So now they are indirectly proposing that along with undocumented immigrants, even legal permanent residents who are on a pathway to citizenship, should not be granted either representation or access to services. It is nothing more than a pipedream but Vitter and Bennett will continue to deny immigrants living and contributing to this country any chance to adjust their status.
Personally, I would love to have a long citizenship and immigration status questionnaire on the Census form as a way to get the most accurate information.
How many undocumented immigrants pay taxes without proper political rights and representation?
How many undocumented immigrants, entered the country legally and waited in lines for many years before aging out or before their petitioner died, leaving them in limbo?
How many United States citizens have parents, children, spouses and siblings who are undocumented?
How many undocumented immigrants would leave the country if they were granted some sort of legal status?
I don’t doubt that the data would reveal that most undocumented people are productive members of society who pay taxes, follow the law, and deserve a pathway to citizenship. When more Americans become aware of the broken immigration system and how it is keeping apart families, support would grow for an immigration reform that keeps families together.
Unfortunately, this is not the purpose of the Vitter-Bennett amendment.
Fortunately, it might not even come up for a vote.