Haya El Nasser, USA Today, October 13, 2009
A controversial amendment that would require the Census Bureau to ask for the first time whether people are in the USA illegally is headed for a Senate vote Wednesday.
Proposed last week by Republican Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana and Bob Bennett of Utah, the amendment would exclude illegal immigrants from the population count used to allocate congressional seats after the 2010 Census. It also would require the Census to ask people whether they are citizens.
“Illegal aliens should not be included for the purposes of determining representation in Congress, and that’s the bottom line here,” Vitter says. If enacted, the amendment to an appropriations bill would stop funding of the 2010 Census unless the changes are made.
By law, the Census is taken April 1. State population counts must be submitted to the president the following Dec. 31 so that seats in the House of Representatives can be apportioned.
Since the first Census in 1790, the bureau has routinely asked in various surveys whether people are native-born or foreign-born, but it has never asked about legal status.
Immigrants often are the hardest to count because many mistrust government, especially if they are in the USA illegally. Crackdowns on illegal immigration at the border and at work sites have made outreach for next year’s Census even more challenging.