The always interesting Julia Preston has an insightful piece in the NYTimes today about efforts to ensure Latino participation in the upcoming census. It includes a reference to recent NDN work spearheaded by Andres Ramirez:
Nearly 12 million Latinos voted in November 2008, an increase of two million votes over 2004, according to an analysis by Andres Ramirez, a researcher at NDN, a Democratic advocacy organization. Now, in the first census since Hispanics passed blacks to become the second-largest population group in the United States, Hispanics want to extend that voting power with a census count that would support more elected representatives for their communities.
An analysis by NDN and America’s Voice, an immigrant advocacy group, projected that a full count of Hispanics would lead to a significant redrawing of the Congressional map, with six states picking up one Congressional seat (Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina and Utah), while Arizona would add two and Texas as many as four.
For the US Latino community the next three years will be of great consequence. We will see the census, the passage of immigration reform and the 2011/2012 reapportionment at the federal and state levels. If each happen as they should, as Andres' reports above show, there will be a significant shift of political power in the US to states and parts of states with fast-growing Latinos populations, the beginning of a more proper alignment of the actual number of Hispanics in the US with their political representation at all levels of government. For Hispanic leaders making sure that all three of these game-changing events happen, and happen as they should, is both a great opportunity and great challenge in the years ahead.
For many years NDN and our affiliate the New Policy Institute has worked to make sure that the extraordinary demographic transition underweigh in the US today both better understood and for it to play out with the least amount of social strife possible. Which was what drove us this year to not only aggressively champion comprehensive immigration reform and the nomination of Sonio Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, advocate for closer Hemispheric ties and relations with our Latin neighbors, produce the reports cited above, but to also lead the successful campaigns to get CNN to drop Lou Dobbs and to defeat the pernicious Vitter-Bennett amendment in the US Senate which would have done so much to disrupt the census next year.
In looking back at our work these last few years I think this work - helping ease and enable the extraordinary demographic transition underway in the US - has been our most important and lasting contribution to the national political debate. I am grateful for all the support the NDN community has given us - the whole NDN team - to lead on these basket of issues which have often been hard and sometimes not well understood. But led we have, with moral clarity and bull-headed conviction, and the I would like to believe that the nation is just a little better for it.
But the battles ahead may be our most important yet. Get ready my friends.
Update - Here is the redistricting report cited above.
Immigrant advocates have been bracing for this clash for months. As Simon Rosenberg of the left-leaning New Democrat Network recently argued in a blog posting, “The Republican assault on the census and reapportionment will not end next week even if the Bennett-Vitter Amendment is voted down,” which it likely will be. “This is going to be a titanic battle.”
Rosenberg and others decry the proposed amendment as divisive. They say it seeks to pit traditionally red states that receive fewer immigrants (like Indiana and Montana) against blue states that are magnets for them (like California and New York). Indeed, an analysis cited in a New York Timesarticle today showed that if noncitizens were stripped out of the population totals, California would lose five congressional seats and New York and Illinois one each. Among the beneficiaries (surprise, surprise): Louisiana, Vitter’s home state, which would be spared the loss of one seat. Get ready for more skirmishes ahead.
A Senate vote could come as early as today. Call your Senator or use this site to take online action against this pernicious effort.
Just wanted to report in, quickly, on progress on three projects NDN is taking a leading role on right now.
Drop Dobbs - Several weeks ago, along with more than a dozen other groups, NDN helped launched Drop Dobbs, a website and campaign designed to knock Lou Dobbs off CNN. Tens of thousands have signed our petitions, watched our videos. And the campaign itself has gotten a lot of notice. Dobbs himself has addressed the campaign on the air, more groups are signing on, and some new steps will be announced soon. The NY Times has a major piece by Brian Stelter today which is the most important press story yet generated on the campaign - be sure to check it out, and if you haven't yet please add your name to the petition today.
Defeating Bennett-Vitter - For NDN blog readers you know that we have been long talking about the day Republican leaders would mount a series effort to derail reapportionment and the census by challening the propriety of counting non citizens particularly in the reapportionment process in 2011-2012. Well that day has come now, with Senators Bennett and Vitter attempting to put an Amendment on to the current Commerce appropriations bill which would add an 11th question to the census next year, in an attempt to get an accurate count of the non-citizens in the United States. NDN has issued many statements, been up on the Hill, organized two press conferences this week with allied groups and in general helped organize a well orchestrated push back on this irresponsible effort that would undeniably cost the country a great deal of money, threaten the integrity of the census and reapportionment processes and almost certainly be found unconstitutional.
It’s a bitter human irony that we can be at our ugliest when we’re fighting for our most passionate verities, including democracy, freedom and the American dream. And it seems to happen most often in the politics of immigration.
Most of us are good people when we’re sitting around the dinner table. What happens to us as soon as we step up to the public podium?
If there’s one movie that shows the worst -- but also the best -- in that regard, it’s a documentary you’ve probably never heard of. As of now, it's unreleased.
Like many other independently made documentaries, “9500 Liberty” doesn’t have a distributor. That ought to change. So far, it has been on the festival circuit with forthcoming stops at the San Diego Asian Festival (Oct. 27), the San Francisco’s Sundance Kabuki Theater (Oct. 29), and festivals in Virginia, Austin and St. Louis in November.
And it lit up the virtual nation of Youtubia when filmmakers Annabel Park and Eric Byler posted their movie in progress. In the summer of 2007, Park and Byler took their cameras to Prince William County, Virginia, where an explosive debate was taking place.
In response to the burgeoning influx of Hispanics, the local board of supervisors was considering legislation that would require police officers to stop and question anyone who gave them “probable cause” to suspect was an illegal alien. The film follows the interaction within the board, out in the community and over the Internet, as the issue attracts increasingly inflamed and widespread debate.
And as we watch events unfold, we can’t help noticing this is all taking place in Manassas, the hallowed battleground site where another racially charged matter divided the political nation.
This postmodern version of civil war may not have the musketry and the spectacular loss of life of its predecessor. But it doesn't lack for absorbing drama. And a memorable cast of characters...
.....Even though the filmmakers’ political sentiments aren’t too hard to identify, there’s something to watch for viewers of any political stripe. “9500 Liberty” is local, yet powerfully American. And not unlike Marshall Curry’s excellent 2002 documentary “Street Fight,” which chronicled the stunning rise to power of Newark Mayor Cory Booker, it shows us politics where the rubber meets the road.
With an uplifting turn of events and some extraordinary acts of conscience, “9500 Liberty” is as dramatically charged as any fiction movie. And ultimately, it’s as powerful a booster of the democratic process as anything Frank Capra ever imprinted into our collective memory.
Those of you in SF this week are lucky - along with several other organizations we are cohosting a screening of 9500 Liberty this Thursday night, October 29th, at Sundance Kabuki. I hope you will be able to attend, and see what I have called one of the best movies I have ever seen.
If the Vitter-Bennett Amendment SA 2644 on HR 2847 regarding the Census comes to a vote this week, I urge you to vote no.
While this Amendment may appear innocent, its intent and practical effect on the process are not. If carried out, it could dramatically disrupt an orderly Census count next year, throw the Census process into a legal and political morass that could also threaten a clean and accurate count, and is part of a broader strategy by Senator Bennett to challenge the upcoming reapportionment process which at this point appears remarkably, and offensively unconstitutional. There are simply too many questions about this Amendment for you to vote yes on it this week.
I will let others address the practicality of adding a new question to the Census at this very, very late stage. But I do want to address Senator Bennett's argument about why getting an accurate count of the non-citizens in the U.S. today is so important - to deny the ability for the undocumented immigrants in each state to count towards the upcoming reapportionment process. In his own statements on the Senate floor, and in his press release, he has made it clear that this reason is behind his Amendment - to start a racially charged effort to disrupt the once every ten year reapportionment process in 2011 and 2012.
In the aftermath of the Civil War, when Americans fought each other over slavery, the nation passed the 14th Amendment to the Constitution in order to make it clear that in reapportionment all people must be counted, and counted equally, correcting the infamous three-fifths of a person clause of the Constitution. The new language read:
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State.
Senator Bennett's Amendment, while it does not address reapportionment directly, is part of a broader plan to directly challenge the 14th amendment - and thus the legal basis of the entire modern civil rights movement. This is a strategy that we believe is unconstitutional and will certainly be - given the historic import of this Amendment - offensive to some.
The issues being raised by Senators Bennett and Vitter are neither simple nor easy. If enacted their Amendment would almost certainly disrupt an orderly census count next year, and start a highly charged conversation about race, the Civil War and the 14th Amendment in the very first year of our first African-American President. I urge you to vote no on this Amendment, and request that issues it raises be given the level of consideration and scrutiny they deserve. This issue is too important to be left to a hastily tossed together and ill-considered amendment. Let Senator Bennett use his bill to start a more informed debate, giving all sides time to prepare.
Christina Bellantoni at Talking Points Memo has a must read piece up on the new Bennett Vitter Census Amendment. It includes a must watch video of Senator Bennett making the case for his amendment.
Whatever one thinks of the idea of adding another question to the census short form at this very late point in the process, focus must be put on Bennett's stated intent - to count the undocumented immigrants in the U.S. so as to deny their use in the upcoming, every ten year reapportionment process.
This new Bennett led effort seems to be, among many other things, a direct legal and political assault on the 14th Amendment to the Constitution:
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed
The 14th Amendment was designed, of course, to correct the infamous "three-fifths" clause in the original Constitution, which relegated a class of people to be something much less than the rest of us. It is extraordinary that in the first year of the Presidency of the first African-American President the Senate is seriously considering an amendment which so directly challenges the integrity of the 140 year old legal framework which enabled, for example, Michelle Obama's family to move from slave, to free, and today, to the White House.
There are rumors afoot today that some Democratic Senators and moderate Republicans are considering joining with Bennett and Vitter on this amendment next week, giving them enough votes to pass it. Before they do they and their staffs better do their homework, and come to a better understanding of the real intent behind this seemingly innocent legislation - to attack the legal framework of the modern civil rights era, to discourage immigrants from participating in the census itself, and to launch a divisive and racially charged campaign over who we are today, and who are becoming.
As I wrote in an essay a few weeks ago, Waking Up to the Coming Battle over the Census, the Republican assault on the census and reapportionment will not end next week even if the Bennett-Vitter Amendment is voted down. This is going to be a titantic battle, next year and throughout the two year long reapportionment process. My essay looks at a recent WSJ op-ed which layed out the logic of this fight, which, included, incredibly a reference to the intent of the original Constitution, which of course had been, let us say, not so good on these matters of race and has needed some significant improving. Our own Rob Shapiro, who helped oversee the preperation of the last census, also weighed in last week with his own take on all this.
Those who have a role in ensuring a fair and accurate census and reapportionment need to begin engaging now in this fight, and not allow the other side to score early and significant victories before every one has their teams and plans together. The battle has been joined, and it is time to jump in, hard.
One of the best ways of course the nation has to neutralize this effort will be to pass immigration reform next year, giving the undocumenteds legal status, and thus rendering Bennett, Vitter and all their soon to be vociferous allies mute.
Here's the video of Senator Bennett making his case:
The latest fight over the Decennial Census is part of a 30 years' war over efforts to count everyone in America, including immigrants, minorities and poor people. It's become an ongoing war, because the results carry such large consequences. The Constitution mandates a census every decade, because the founders saw a regular, state-by-state population count as the best way to determine how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives. Beyond that, as Washington's role has expanded, the Census provides the data used to distribute a growing slice of federal spending among the states and their cities and counties - nearly $400 billion worth these days - and to build the baselines and updates used to evaluate the effectiveness of hundreds of federal programs.
Until this year, the fights over the Decennial Census have focused not on who should be counted - the answer has always been everyone - but on how hard the government should try to find the one to two percent of us who are often overlooked. It matters, because people who don't return their Census forms and then avoid Census workers trying to follow up - the Bureau calls them the "undercounted" - are predominantly poor minorities, recent immigrants, and American Indians. So, they're not distributed randomly across the states but rather concentrated in certain places - and this undercount costs those places part of their fair share of federal funds for roads, schools, medical care, parks and other things based on population. If the count were accurate, a number of big cities and states might be a little less financially strapped.
I follow all of this pretty closely, because as Under Secretary of Commerce in the late 1990s, I oversaw the Census Bureau planning and operations for the 2000 Census. The fight that time was over our plans to use a huge sample - some 1 million households - to find out exactly where and to what extent the undercounts happen, and then use that information to adjust the head count and make the final results more accurate. That was just what the National Academy of Sciences had recommended for the 1990 Census, which the first Bush White House rejected. When the undercount grew worse that time, the Academy came back with the same recommendation for 2000. This time, the Clinton administration approved, and the Census Bureau did it. But between the counting and the reporting, George W. Bush took office. The sample was discarded, and the undercount grew even worse.
The opposition to sampling in 2000 certainly seemed to be motivated by purely political concerns that counting all minorities would cost them federal funding or even seats in Congress. But that opposition wasn't completely shameless: They balanced their attacks on sampling with support for spending as much as we asked for to assemble the largest workforce of census counters in history and mount major advertising and civic outreach campaigns targeted to communities with large undercounts.
It will be worse this time. The 2010 Census planned by the Bush administration has no sample, and it's too late now for the Obama team to design and carry out one in time. It's also almost certain that the undercount will be even larger: The numbers of recent immigrants are way up, and the advertising campaigns aimed at minorities and the outreach to civic groups have been scaled back.
But now it's getting truly ugly. Senator Bob Bennett, backed by the Wall Street Journal and right-wing cable TV and radio, has proposed to use the census to identify undocumented people, who would then be deliberately excluded from the count. In more than two centuries of the U.S. Census, it has always counted whoever is physically here - "inhabitants" in the term used in the first census of 1790 - regardless of their citizenship or other legal status. One reason is that everyone is protected by the law, so everyone should be counted in determining how many seats a state gets to write those laws. And whether or not someone has citizenship or residency papers, they still put claims on public services which the funding for those services should reflect.
The political and social implications of Bennett's radical idea are enormous. California, for example, may have as many as 4 or 5 million undocumented inhabitants - exclude them and the state could lose perhaps a half-dozen seats in Congress and tens of billions of dollars in federal funds. Texas and other states with large Hispanic populations would lose seats and funding as well.
This change also could destroy the Census process, with incalculable costs for everyone. The Census doesn't collect any information beyond people's demographic characteristics - no names or data about their legal circumstances - and it's so fastidious about people's confidentiality that it won't share any specific data with police, the FBI, or anybody. In 2000, for example, a form came back with a threat against the president scrawled across it - and the Census Bureau refused Secret Service demands to share the address. (It turned out to not matter, since the respondent was safely tucked away in a state prison.) The Bureau also knows that if the census process goes beyond demographics, tens of millions of people may assume that their information might be turned over to other parts of government, and the undercount would skyrocket. People would begin to worry that the IRS might compare the number of people counted in a household against the number of dependents claimed, or that child welfare services might discover that somebody is taking care of a cousin's child and disapprove of it, or, most obviously, that the Immigration and Naturalization Service would come knocking.
The Census is the world's largest scientific exercise and provides the basis not only to allocate federal funds and seats in Congress, but also to evaluate the effectiveness of countless federal, state and local programs. All of that would be at risk if the latest expression of anti-immigrant bias were ever to take hold of the decennial Census.
In an essay yesterday (which is still running on the front page of the Huffington Post), Waking Up To the Coming Battle Over the Census, I talked about the very real possibility that the national Republican Party will mount a sustained effort to undermine the Census next year because of the Constitutional requirement for it to count all people, including undocumented immigrants. One could easily imagine Rep. Joe Wilson, for example, leading this effort.
Yesterday we came across this story from the Salt Lake Tribune, which reports on a new bill just introduced in the United States Senate by Sen. Bob Bennett which attempts to identify the undocumented population and bar them from contributing to the reapportionment process. From the news article:
Bennett, a Utah Republican who faces a tough re-election effort, introduced a bill last week that would add an 11th question to the Census forms asking if the person is a citizen or legal resident. He wants to exclude undocumented immigrants from the count used to apportion seats in the U.S. House.
"It does not make any sense for congressional seats and the Electoral College to be determined by a process that unfairly provides the advantage to those communities with high illegal populations," Bennett said in announcing his legislation.
The question Bennett raises, and is raised by the authors in the Wall Street Journal in my post yesterday, is should the undocumenteds be counted? The 14th Amendment says:
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed
The interpretation of this question for these many years is that, yes, everyone must be counted. And certainly the 2010 Census is designed to do just that. But given how the national Republican Party played politics (successfully by the way) with the Census and reapportionment process the last two times the nation went through this, we should expect another run this time too. And my guess is that despite the Constitutional requirement to count everyone most/many Americans would agree with Senator Bennett - why should places like Arizona gain at others expense through the presence of what will clearly be labeled "illegals?"
Which is why this debate could end up being so tough for those elected officials, including the President, required to defend the constitutionality of the current census strategy - because for many it will seem like it "makes no sense."
So how to avoid what could become a very ugly and divisive fight, pitting region against region, community against community, immigrants vs native born?
Pass comprehensive immigration reform prior to the start of the census count, making the "illegals" legal and finally fixing the broken immigration system once and for all.
Open to other ideas too. Feel free to share 'em. Anxious to hear your thoughts on this.
Tonight's reports of the murder of a US Census worker will bring national attention to the emerging politics of the Census count, something that we've long been worried about at NDN.
In August I posted the following about a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed which signaled the beginning of a new campaign by the right to disrupt the vital Census count next year:
For many months now NDN has been making the case that inevitably the right would make a spirited case to prevent the Census, to be conducted next year, from counting undocumented immigrants, or at least using their numbers to influence reapportionment or the allocation of resources by the government (the primary purpose of the every ten year count).
Today the Wall Street Journal is running a well-articulated early salvo in this coming battle by John S. Baker and Elliot Stonecipher. It starts off......
"Next year’s census will determine the apportionment of House members and Electoral College votes for each state. To accomplish these vital constitutional purposes, the enumeration should count only citizens and persons who are legal, permanent residents. But it won’t.
Instead, the U.S. Census Bureau is set to count all persons physically present in the country—including large numbers who are here illegally. The result will unconstitutionally increase the number of representatives in some states and deprive some other states of their rightful political representation. Citizens of “loser” states should be outraged. Yet few are even aware of what’s going on.
In 1790, the first Census Act provided that the enumeration of that year would count “inhabitants” and “distinguish” various subgroups by age, sex, status as free persons, etc. Inhabitant was a term with a well-defined meaning that encompassed, as the Oxford English Dictionary expressed it, one who “is a bona fide member of a State, subject to all the requisitions of its laws, and entitled to all the privileges which they confer.”
Thus early census questionnaires generally asked a question that got at the issue of citizenship or permanent resident status, e.g., “what state or foreign country were you born in?” or whether an individual who said he was foreign-born was naturalized. Over the years, however, Congress and the Census Bureau have added inquiries that have little or nothing to do with census’s constitutional purpose.
By 1980 there were two census forms. The shorter form went to every person physically present in the country and was used to establish congressional apportionment. It had no question pertaining to an individual’s citizenship or legal status as a resident. The longer form gathered various kinds of socioeconomic information including citizenship status, but it went only to a sample of U.S. households. That pattern was repeated for the 1990 and 2000 censuses.
The 2010 census will use only the short form. The long form has been replaced by the Census Bureau’s ongoing American Community Survey. Dr. Elizabeth Grieco, chief of the Census Bureau’s Immigration Statistics Staff, told us in a recent interview that the 2010 census short form does not ask about citizenship because “Congress has not asked us to do that.”
Because the census (since at least 1980) has not distinguished citizens and permanent, legal residents from individuals here illegally, the basis for apportionment of House seats has been skewed. According to the Census Bureau’s latest American Community Survey data (2007), states with a significant net gain in population by inclusion of noncitizens include Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Texas. (There are tiny net gains for Hawaii and Massachusetts.)
This makes a real difference. Here’s why:
According to the latest American Community Survey, California has 5,622,422 noncitizens in its population of 36,264,467. Based on our round-number projection of a decade-end population in that state of 37,000,000 (including 5,750,000 noncitizens), California would have 57 members in the newly reapportioned U.S. House of Representatives.
However, with noncitizens not included for purposes of reapportionment, California would have 48 House seats (based on an estimated 308 million total population in 2010 with 283 million citizens, or 650,000 citizens per House seat). Using a similar projection, Texas would have 38 House members with noncitizens included. With only citizens counted, it would be entitled to 34 members."
....You get the idea.
We've been arguing, aggressively, that it is important for the Obama Administration to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform by March of 2010 (the count begins in April, 2010) in order to avoid what could become a very nasty debate indeed - in the middle of a very important election - about who exactly is an American. To me the need to conduct a clean and accurate census, so essential to effective governance of the nation, is one of the most powerful reasons why immigration reform cannot wait till 2011, as some have suggested.
In launching DropDobbs.com along with 14 other groups this past week, I cited my own personal weariness with the summer's angry talk and the still all too virulent politics of intolerance. We have long believed the debate over the Census would unleash the reactionary hounds, so to speak, and rather than letting them gain the upper hand in a debate over who we are and who we are becoming, it is essential now for reasonable people of both parties to stand, together, to prevent an angry few to hijack what is, in this case, a process so integral to the very functioning of our democracy.
Next year is shaping up to be an extraordinary one in US history.
Hoy surgió una serie de artículos que resaltan la condición tan peligrosa en la que se encuentra el partido Republicano. El partido se encuentra sin una agenda de políticas públicas clara, sin propuestas específicas para resolver los problemas más agravantes, mientras que al mismo tiempo ahuyenta cada vez más sectores de la población con su retórica alarmante y a menudo ofensiva. En Tejas, el Dallas Morning News comenta sobre la elección a Gobernador del estado y estipula que si Kay Bailey-Hutchinson piensa tener alguna probabilidad de ganar la elección, tendrá que ampliar el partido. Siendo que Rick Perry disfruta de mayor apoyo entre la base Republicana, Kay Bailey tendrá que acudir a los grupos y demográficas que se encuentran fuera de su base – principalmente los Hispanos/Latinos. Lástima que se paso casi un año entero en el 2007 presentando enmiendas que lograron derrumbar un acuerdo para reforma migratoria – tema que le importa a muchos Tejanos ciudadanos con familia inmigrante.
En Oklahoma, Ponca City News escribe, “La renuncia del Senador Mel Martínez de Florida cierra el último capítulo en el esfuerzo de la última década por parte del partido Republicano para ganarse a más votantes Hispanos.” Es decir, el partido falló, y hasta le falló a uno de los suyos. Martínez se va, desilusionado con el comportamiento y la retórica de su partido, dejando a los Republicanos sin un solo Senador Hispano, y con sólo tres cubano-americanos en la Cámara Baja. Simon también ha escrito sobre lo que la renuncia de Martínez y la llegada de Sotomayor significa en términos del voto Hispano para los Republicanos.
Por último, un artículo en elWall Street Journalsobre el Censo (y lo que implicará a la hora de redistribuir escaños en el Congreso en base al conteo de personas) alude al tipo de campaña anti-inmigrante y anti-Hispana que podemos esperar de los xenofóbicos y conservadores en el 2010. Por ejemplo, conforme a cálculos del Censo, se espera que Tejas obtenga 4 escaños más de representación en la Cámara baja. Este crecimiento se debe en gran parte a los hispanos, ya que aproximadamente 60% del crecimiento en el estado ocurrió en la comunidad Hispana. Siendo que en estos momentos la mayoría de hispanos se alinean con el partido Demócrata, los Republicanos le temen a que esta demografía sea contada en el Censo. Asi que a ambos partidos: OJO, mucho ojo, para ser un partido viable en el siglo 21, ya no se vale insultar y distanciarse de la “minoría” más grande en este país.