LOS ANGELES, CA – The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund issued the following statement regarding the Vitter-Bennett amendment to the CJS appropriations bill that would require residents to answer a question on citizenship and immigration status in the 2010 Census:
“The NALEO Educational Fund strongly condemns the Vitter-Bennett amendment to the Senate legislation that will fund Census 2010 operations, because it is an unconstitutional and costly effort to suppress Latino participation in the decennial Census. Moreover, it would derail the 2010 Census and deprive our nation of timely and accurate data critical to our representative democracy. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) and Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT) have proposed an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science and related agencies (CJS) appropriations bill that would require residents to answer a question on citizenship and immigration status as part of the 2010 Census. The Senate may take action related to the amendment in the next few legislative days.
“The proponents of the Vitter-Bennett amendment hope to exclude undocumented residents and possibly all non-citizens from being counted in Census 2010 for the purposes of apportioning Congressional seats. This would thwart the clear language in the U.S. Constitution which mandates a count of all of the nation’s residents for apportionment purposes. In 1868, our nation adopted the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that repealed the provision which only counted slaves as three-fifths of a person. The Vitter-Bennett amendment evokes this shameful legacy, and is an effort to make a fundamental change to our Constitution through appropriations legislation. It represents a reckless departure from decades of our nation’s Census practices, intended to ensure that every 10 years, we have the most accurate portrait possible of America.
“By making intrusive inquiries into immigration status, the Vitter-Bennett amendment would raise concerns among all residents – both native-born and immigrant – about the confidentiality and privacy of information provided to the Census Bureau. This would deter participation in the Census count, particularly among Latino residents, which we believe is the ultimate goal of the amendment’s proponents. Latinos are the nation’s second largest and fastest-growing population group, and we cannot have a successful 2010 enumeration without a full count of the Latino community.
“The Vitter-Bennett amendment would also compel the Census Bureau to add a new question to 2010 Census materials, costing us billions of dollars and countless months of delay. At a time when our nation is facing serious economic challenges, it is simply irresponsible to require the government to spend valuable resources on testing and revising Census questions, changing its promotional and training materials, and rebuilding data processing software and equipment.
“Under U.S. law, the Census Bureau must submit the topics it will ask in the decennial enumeration to Congress three years before Census Day (April 1, 2010), and the actual Census questions two years prior to that date. Senators Vitter and Bennett, as well as the entire membership of Congress, had ample opportunity to raise any concerns about the scope of the Census in 2007 and 2008, when Congress enacted its required approvals. With Census Day less than six months away, the Vitter-Bennett amendment would force the Census Bureau to make massive changes in its operations that are certain to prevent the 2010 count from starting and finishing on time. The Vitter-Bennett amendment would throw these operations into chaos, creating delays that will reverberate for years to come.
“Without a timely Census count, we will not meet the deadline for reapportioning seats in Congress, or providing the data needed for state and local redistricting. Reapportionment and redistricting are critical to ensuring that our government remains responsive and accountable; the Vitter-Bennett amendment would sabotage the future of our democratic process.
“The leadership of the U.S. Senate is working to obtain a cloture vote on the CJS appropriations bill, which could lead to a ruling that the Vitter-Bennett amendment is not relevant to the bill. Under such circumstances, the amendment would not move forward. We urge the Senate to vote in favor of cloture, which would lay the foundation for halting the Vitter-Bennett amendment. If the cloture vote is not successful, we urge every Senator to oppose this unconstitutional and costly and measure if it comes to the Senate floor. We cannot afford to waste billions of dollars on an effort aimed at suppressing the Latino Census count and jeopardizing the accuracy of the most important source of data about our nation’s population. We call on the White House to work with the Senate leadership to help ensure that lawmakers reject this disastrous course.”