Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, is calling on the Senate to reject a proposed amendment that would require the Census Bureau to add a question on citizenship and immigration status to the 2010 census form less than six months before the census takes place on April 1.
In a guest blog on The Huffington Post yesterday, Henderson said the divisive amendment, sponsored by Sens. David Vitter, R. La., and Robert Bennett, R. Utah, would disrupt the census after years of careful planning, delaying the apportionment of Congressional and state legislative districts the allocation of federal funds, and the availability of data essential to corporate decision-making.
“At a time when the political process is mired in partisanship, public trust in government is at an all-time low, and the economy is stuck in a recession, the last thing the nation needs is a delayed and dysfunctional census,” Henderson said.
Henderson also said the Vitter-Bennett amendment, would discourage census participation, resulting in millions of people going uncounted.
“Whether they are newcomers or native-born – and whether those who are immigrants are legal or undocumented – many immigrants will believe that they are being targeted by those who fear them and their growing presence in our society,” Henderson said. “This is not the first time that recent arrivals have been made unwelcome. Many of the same slurs now hurled at Hispanics, Asians, and other newcomers were once used against immigrants from Ireland, Eastern Europe, and Southern Europe, particularly Catholics and Jews. Nor is this the first time that some Americans wanted to count other Americans partially or not at all. Shamefully, the first tallies of this country’s population counted most African Americans as only three-fifths of a person.
“Given our history, an accurate and inclusive census of every person is a civil rights imperative. Whatever their backgrounds, all Americans share a common interest in a census that is on target and on time.”