Leading Civil Rights Groups Join NDN to Oppose Vitter-Bennett Amendment

Yesterday, on the eve of an expected Senate vote on the divisive Vitter-Bennett amendment, a broad coalition of the nation’s leading civil rights and advocacy organizations held a press conference on Capitol Hill to urge the Senate to vote against the amendment. 

The amendment by Sens. David Vitter (R-LA) and Robert Bennett (R-UT) would require the Census Bureau to add a citizenship and immigration status question to 2010 census forms that have already been finalized and printed. The additional question would discourage census participation and undermine efforts for an accurate census. With less than six months to go before the April 1, 2010 count, the amendment would needlessly delay the census, wasting $7 billion and 10 years of work in research, planning, and preparation for Census 2010.

In his floor speech on this Amendment, Senator Bennett explained that he would use the data collected from the proposed additional question to “deal with the question of the apportionment.” But as NDN President and Founder Simon Rosenberg explained during yesterday’s press conference, to use any number other than the “whole number of persons” residing in a state to determine apportionment is in violation of the 14th Amendment and contrary to settled law.

Leaders from NDN, the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) released the following statements:

“While the Vitter-Bennett Amendment may appear innocent, its intent and practical effect on the Census and reapportionment process is not. If enacted the Amendment would almost certainly disrupt an orderly census count next year, eventually found to be unconstitutional, all the while starting a highly divisive  conversation about race, the Civil War and the 14th Amendment in the very first year of America's very first African-American President.
 --Simon Rosenberg, President and Founder of NDN

 “Changing the 2010 Census questionnaire at this point is unlawful, a waste of taxpayer dollars and the impact it will have on slowing down 2010 Census is a cost our economy cannot afford to take on right now.  Furthermore, asking about immigration or citizenship status in the 2010 Census is unnecessarily intrusive and will raise concerns among all respondents – both native-born and immigrant – about the confidentiality and privacy of information provided to the government.  We need an accurate count of how many people are in our country, and that means encouraging everyone to be counted, not discouraging them.”
– Terry Ao, Director of the Census and Voting Programs for the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC) and Member of the Census Bureau Advisory Committee

“"The Vitter amendment is deeply troubling. Not only does it threaten to undermine 10 years and billions of dollars of preparation for the 2010 census, it also contradicts what America stands for -- the idea that all people are created equal. The 14th Amendment clearly requires a count of every resident for apportionment of U.S. House seats, yet the Vitter amendment echoes a shameful period when the census counted most African Americans as three-fifths of a person. The ideals that our country was founded on, and the sacrifice and struggle of generations of Americans to realize them, deserve better than this."
 – Wade Henderson, President of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR)
“Latinos are the nation’s second largest and fastest-growing population group, and the 2010 Census cannot be successful without the full participation of every single Latino resident.  The Vitter-Bennett amendment is a deliberate to attempt to suppress the Latino count, and it will jeopardize the accuracy of the most important source of data about our nation’s population.”
– Arturo Vargas, Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Education Fund and Member of the Census Bureau Advisory Committee

For more information, follow this link to NDN's backgrounder on Census 2010, Immigration and Reapportionment.