Republican Senators Want to Keep Illegal Immigrants Off of Census

The United States senate will vote on a controversial amendment today that could require the Census Bureau to ask the immigration status of everyone who participates in the 2010 survey and exclude illegal immigrants from the population count.

"Illegal aliens should not be included for the purposes of determining representation in Congress, and that's the bottom line here," said Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, who proposed the amendment with Bob Bennett of Utah last week, less than six months before the questionnaires for the 2010 Census will be mailed out to 135 million households. If passed, the amendment could stop funding to the 2010 Census until the mandated changes have been made.

New questions would necessitate new forms to be printed. According to the bureau, 425 million questionnaires have already been printed in a variety of different languages. "It's operationally impossible," says Steve Jost, Census associate communications director. "The forms are printed, folded. We have bilingual forms. ... We're printing 1.5 million forms a day."

"Already the public fears that the Census is too intrusive," says Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, which opposes the amendment and the boycott proposed by other Latino organizations such as the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders.

"Asking about citizenship status "would raisemore questions in the public mind about how confidential the Censusis," Vargas says. Since 1790, the Census has asked whether participants are foreign or native-born, but never before inquired about legal immigration status.