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Census count diminishes citizenship

A funny thing happened on the way to the 2010 census. A United States senator stood up and said the next census will be a fraud on the American people.

Louisiana Sen. David Vitter set off a firestorm recently when he introduced an amendment proposing that the upcoming census ask respondents if they are U.S. citizens, and if not, if they are here as Legal Permanent Residents. Under his amendment, the census would count all persons, but illegal aliens, tourists, foreign students or other temporary visitors would not be included for the purpose of the congressional apportionment or divvying up federal funds.

This seems like common sense to most Americans, but in fact, illegal aliens and millions of others here on a temporary basis have traditionally been included in the census count. This was not a big problem in past decades while those numbers were small, but today, we have over 30 million persons in the country who are neither citizens nor Legal Permanent Residents (“green card holders”).

Counting these millions of non-citizens as equal to citizens for all census purposes seriously distorts our nation’s politics and government. How so? States with high numbers of illegal aliens profit by gaining more congressional seats and more federal grant monies. This creates a perverse incentive for states to attract illegal aliens to increase their clout in Congress and their share of federal funds. By the same token, states with laws discouraging illegal aliens from taking up residence are penalized by losing representation in Congress.

In September, Sens. Bennett, Enzi and others proposed a new law to fix the problem, the Fairness in Representation Act, but the Democrats who control the Senate have not allowed a hearing on the proposal.

Concerned about the unstemmed flow of illegal aliens over our border? Don’t miss Tom Tancredo’s book, “In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America’s Border and Security”

The New York Times called the proposal for redoing the questionnaire for the 2010 census “ridiculously expensive.” But curiously, they don’t object to the Census Bureau’s $300 million dollar campaign to encourage illegal aliens and other non-citizens to participate in the census. Nor do they object to the extra money spent for bilingual forms, Spanish language public service announcements and funds given to far-left groups to set up “Census Information Centers.” Can you say, ACORN Walking Around Money?

There are logical reasons why Democrats want to give millions of non-citizens equal status in the census. Illegal aliens are concentrated mostly in California and urban regions that would lose Democrat seats in Congress if they were not counted. Lois Kazakoff of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that excluding non-citizens “would reduce our political clout” for their sanctuary city.

Some advocates for including illegal aliens in the census say simply that the Constitution demands it. Liberal groups who never before found much value in the strict construction school of constitutional jurisprudence are suddenly demanding that “all persons” be interpreted only one way – to include all living, breathing human beings who happen to be within our borders on the day of the census. Yet the Bennett-Vitter proposal does not say they should not be counted. What it proposes is that we should count them in the total as non-citizens and then include only citizens in the apportionment of congressional seats. There is nothing unconstitutional in that proposed change.

Defenders of the status quo believe that if the question about citizenship and legal status were added to the census questionnaire, illegal aliens would not participate because they would fear deportation. Perhaps so, but so what? If illegal aliens are no longer part of the formula for allocating congressional seats or federal funds, who cares if the count is accurate other than professors of demography and the lobbyists at the National Council of La Raza? Besides, the U.S. Census Bureau has statistical sampling methods it can use to estimate the total number of illegal aliens – or any other demographic group – regardless of the extent of their participation in answering the census questionnaire.

While Democrats, the open border lobby and the government of Mexico are against Vitter’s amendment and Bennett’s bill, there is one special-interest group that wants to make sure we count citizens, not wannabes: the American People. A CNN poll conducted Oct. 16-18 asked, “Do you think the U.S. census should or should not ask everyone living in this country whether they are legal residents of the United States.” Eighty-eight percent responded that we should.

Now, unless the Senate opponents of the Vitter amendment believe that CNN is part of the “vast right-wing conspiracy,” they ought to pay attention to this sentiment.