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Common census

"Common census" Continued...

Issue: "Save the unions," Oct. 24, 2009

Election Data Services, a political consulting firm, predicts similar gains and losses but points to several factors, including immigration, migration from other states, and birth rates. The firm also emphasizes another factor that could make this census unusual: rampant foreclosures leading to population shifts and people who may be difficult to find for a count.

Though predictions about outcomes vary, Stonecipher says it makes sense to count everyone with the census, but to use only citizen population figures for congressional apportionment. Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform agrees: "It's just basically unfair to award additional representation in some states at the expense of people in other states who are citizens."

Mehlman says he's surprised the issue doesn't raise more hackles: "You don't hear any protests, and that baffles me." The only protests from Congress so far have come from Bennett, the Utah Republican who wants the census to ask about citizenship and legal status. Census director Groves wouldn't say whether he agreed with Bennett's bill in principle, but he did say it's impractical to implement six months before the census. "A lot of the forms are already printed," Groves told The Salt Lake Tribune. "That train has left for the 2010 census clearly."

When asked why the senator waited this long to introduce the bill, Bennett spokeswoman Andrea Candrian said the senator "moved quickly to introduce the bill as soon as he became aware of the problem." Candrian said Bennett acknowledges it's late in the process to revise the forms, but he suggests an addendum to the survey.

For both Republicans and Democrats, the issue is politically sensitive, with segments in both parties desiring to woo a growing demographic of Hispanics. But political speculation is tricky: Though Democrats typically win more of the Hispanic vote, apportionment with non-citizen populations tends to benefit red states more than blue ones.

While the Census Bureau reaches out to Hispanics, at least one Latino group is boycotting the census altogether: The National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian leaders is urging its members to boycott the census unless Congress passes immigration reform. The group's leaders say boycotting the census would pressure congressmen in high-immigrant states to vote for reform or potentially lose political clout.

Most Hispanic groups are urging Hispanics to participate in the census. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Association of Evangelicals says boycotting the census is counterproductive: "We're conveying another message of isolationism rather than assimilation." Rodriguez says a boycott would also prevent certain areas from gaining access to federal funds for things like more policemen and other services.

But though the minister supports the census, he says he doesn't think it should ask about citizenship. Rodriguez says such a move would alienate Hispanics, both illegal and legal, and he questions whether immigrant populations will significantly affect apportionment numbers.

For now, Rodriguez doesn't need to worry: The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has yet to schedule a hearing for Bennett's census bill.

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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