Senator's Proposal to Not Count Undocumented Immigrants Rejected by Census Bureau

After the Census Bureau said his initiative would prevent the 2010 Census from being completed on time, Sen. David Vitter (R.-La.) has partially backtracked on his proposal that the Census questionnaire inquire about each person’s immigration status.

Vitter agreed to drop language that would require the census short form to ask every person about their immigration status,” Nola.com’s Jonathan Tilove reported on Thursday. The senator now wants the form to ask about respondents’ citizenship instead, said another Louisiana news site.

The senator’s shift came after the Census Bureau said that it was basically too late to make any changes, because most of the forms had already been printed, and adding questions would cost hundreds of millions of dollars for additional training for workers and software programming.

Vitter wants to add a question about citizenship because he said states with large numbers of undocumented immigrants would unjustly receive more funds than others. According to Nola.com, he considered Louisiana to be among those on the losing end of that proposition and urged senators from Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania and South Carolina to join him.

One of the main goals of the Census is to help apportion some $400 billion in federal funds, which are distributed according to population figures, regardless of legal status.

Another important consequence of the population count is the distribution of Congressional seats, which Vitter said Louisiana and those other states also stand to lose.

It was not certain whether Vitter’s amendment would even come to a vote, something that could be decided on Thursday, reported Nola.com.

The Obama administration adamantly opposes it, and the Senate leadership has been trying to keep it from coming to a vote. The issue is likely to come to a head Thursday, when the leadership may seek for a second time a vote of cloture on consideration of the commerce, justice and science appropriations bill, which Vitter is seeking to amend.

The controversy over the 2010 Census –which already has seen Hispanic activists’ calling for a boycott, despite the bureau’s efforts to reach out to immigrant communities— doesn’t seem close to an end.

Just as Vitter seemed to be pulling back, another southern lawmaker, Rep Virginia Foxx (R.-N.C.) introduced a bill that would require “the Census Bureau to count the number of illegal immigrants present in the United States in its decennial census,” according to a statement on her website.

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