NDN Backgrounder: Census 2010, Immigration Status and Reapportionment (UPDATED)

[Updated: 10/20/2009]

As the US Senate gears up to vote on Vitter-Bennett SA 2644, NDN offers some key commentary and information regarding the intent of this amendment and the problems that could occur as a result of this amendment. 

Earlier this year, several Republican senators expressed outrage over the perception that the new White House Administration was playing politics with the Census. The outrage was so deep that US Senator Judd Gregg withdrew his nomination as US Secretary of Commerce citing concerns over this perception to politicize the Census. Now these very same Republican Senators are resorting to the very same techniques they decried earlier this year. This amendment only serve serves to politicize and delegitimize what is expected to be a very nonpartisan process. The result could cost billions of dollars, and will complicate efforts to inform and prepare state and local governments for the changing demography and characteristics of this nation.

You can watch Senator Bennett's making his case for adding an 11th question to the census here:

From the NDN Blog:

Vitter/Bennett Reiterate Intent to Derail Reapportionment Process, 10/16/2009. Andres Ramirez cites press clip that explains Vitter/Bennett motives for their proposal. 

The US Senate Must Stand Against the Vitter/Bennett Amendment, 10/15/2009. Andres Ramirez discusses the impact of this amendment, and provide arguments against this proposal.

My Letter to Senators Urging Them to Vote No on SA 2644, the Vitter-Bennett Amendment on the Census, 10/13/2009. Simon Rosenberg

Senators Bennett, Vitter Escalate Their Attack on the Census, Reapportionment, 10/10/2009. Simon Rosenberg summarizes the proposed attempt by Senators Vitter and Bennett to use this amendment as way to racially charge the debate on Census.

The Latest Attack on the Census is an Attack on All of Us, 10/01/2009. Robert Shapiro addresses the importance of an accurate Census, and the impacts of the Vitter-Bennett amendment.

GOP Senator Introduces Bill to Bar Undocumented Immigrants from Reapportionment Process, 9/25/2009. Simon Rosenberg writes about the impact of the Bennett amendment noting that Senator Bennett’s  motives are purely political.

The Coming Battle Over the Census
, 8/10/2009. Simon Rosenberg discusses the emerging battle that conservatives will mount to politicize the Census.

Other Media Sources:

How to Waste Money and Ruin the Census, 10/20/2009. New York Times

Eye Opener: Citizenship and the Census, 10/16/2009. Washington Post

Republican Senators Vitter, Bennett Attempt To Force Census To Ask Immigration Status, 10/8/09, Talking Points Memo.

Census chief: Bennett's immigration bill not practical, 9/23/09, Salt Lake Tribune.

Let’s NOT Take A Census!, 10/8/09, The Census Project Blog.

Our Unconstitutional Census, 8/9/09, Wall Street Journal.

Vitter/Bennett Reiterate Intent to Derail Reapportionment Process

Las Vegas, NV - In a piece published in the Washington Post today, Senators Vitter and Bennett once again reveal their motives for their Census legislation.

“If the current census plan goes ahead, the inclusion of non-citizens toward apportionment will artificially increase the population count in certain states, and that will likely result in the loss of congressional seats for nine other states, including Louisiana,” Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said in a statement issued Thursday.

It goes on to say:

Though Bennett has no issue with the Census counting everyone living in the U.S. regardless of citizenship status, he does not want illegal immigrants to sway Congressional representation.

Read the whole article here.

The US Senate Must Stand Against the Vitter/Bennett Amendment

Las Vegas, NV - The United States Senate is getting enmeshed in a very serious conversation at the moment that may appear to be innocent and practical.  The debate is over a proposed amendment, SA 2644, to the Commerce, Justice, & Science Appropriations bill that is under consideration in the Senate.  

The amendment seeks to force the US Census to redo their questionnaire to include an 11th question that would require everyone to identify their citizenship or legal status in this country.  The stated purpose of the amendment is to gather an accurate count of the undocumented population in this country so that they can be excluded from the population count in the reapportionment of congressional districts after the Census is concluded.  

They make many flawed reasons as to why this should happen, but the reality is that this is just another trick out of the old GOP play book to strike fear into their base by using race and scapegoating immigrants.  We have seen this tactic several times this year and throughout the GOP history over the past 50 years.  Simon has talked about this tactic calling them proxy wars for the eventual debate over fixing our nation's broken immigration system.

I will take some time to dismiss some of their reasoning for supporting the amendment, but want to make sure that everyone is aware of what the real debate is about with this amendment. What Vitter/Bennett are asking Americans to do is to establish a society in which we value some people more than others based on their race. They would like America to revert back to a time in which not all people were equal.  They ask us to consider moments in our nation's history in which we only counted African Americans as 3/5 of a person, and to a time in which Native Americans were still excluded from society.  These chapters of American history are long in our past, and America has done much to overcome the injustices of these eras.  This debate is not just about protecting electoral votes and federal funding for their home states, this debate is about persuading Americans to think that it is ok to discriminate and punish peoples.  

Any US Senator that doesn't see this is simply not paying attention.  There is a reason so many organizations are rallying against this proposal-- including the NAACP, an organization that is well-versed in fighting proposals of discrimination.  I applaud US Senator Harry Reid and the Obama administration for taking this issue seriously, and working to eliminate it from the bill.  If Senators Vitter and Bennett want to have a discussion about race and equality in this country, then let's have that debate, but let's not disguise the issue and pretend that we are having a simple debate about adding an additional question to the Census form.  Man up, and let's have this discussion in its proper setting and its proper time.  

Now, so that people don't think that I am evading their reasons, lets pick them apart right here. First, let's not forget that the GOP was attacking the Obama administration earlier this year for what they claimed was a power grab to play politics with the Census. The issue led Senator Gregg to withdraw as a nominee for Secretary of Commerce.  Vitter/Bennett have made it very clear that their motives are purely political for this amendment: to exclude undocumented persons from the count for the reapportionment of congressional seats. Second, the GOP has attacked the Administration for not being fiscally conservative, yet they have no problem with wasting up to an additional billion dollars to enact this scheme.  Talk about Hypocrisy!  Third,  they claim that our country has precedent for not counting all people.  Again, do you really want to have this debate?  Finally, they claim that the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that when drawing congressional districts, they should be comparable in number of voters according to Reynolds v Sims.  Well Senator Bennett, you should hire a new legal counsel.  The SCOTUS case regarding Reynolds v Sims was in relation to state legislative districts not congressional districts.  That issue was dealt with a year later by SCOTUS in Wesberry v Sanders, in which they determined that congressional districts need to comparable in POPULATION

So now that we got that over with, once again we will ask all US Senators to stand against this amendment.  I understand that some members may see supporting this amendment as a short-term political gain for their states, but ultimately this is a long-term loss for America.  Our nation has a great history of overcoming its past to build a better future, and I am confident that we can continue that tradition.  

For more background on this subject, please read the following posts.

Obama Administration Dodges Political Problem as Census Amendment Moved to the Back Burner

My Letter to Senators Urging them to Vote No SA 2644

NDN Backgrounder: Census 2010, Immigration Status and Reapportionment

On Obama, race and the end of the Southern Strategy


Long-time NDN Friends Hit Stewart, Colbert Shows Last Night

For those of you who have followed NDN for a while, television's must-watch shows hosted familiar faces last night. Jon Stewart hosted Vali Nasr, a professor at the Tufts University and adviser to Richard Holbrooke. Nasr was promoting his new book, Forces of Fortune: The Rise of the New Muslim Middle Class and What It Will Mean for Our World, which sounds like an important entry into the newly forming canon of books on the "rise of the rest." Simon interviewed Nasr, the footage of which can be found below the Stewart interview. 

Beneath that, you can find Shai Agassi, the founder of Better Place. An electric car startup that seeks to radically change transportation, Agassi appeared at NDN's "Moment of Transformation" conference last year. His appearance on Colbert last night is a good update on their progress. 

Nasr on the Daily Show:

Simon interviews Nasr:

Agassi on the Colbert Report:


Agassi at "A Moment of Transformation:"

The Misguided Americano

Dear Ricardo Gonzalez,

I am writing to you in regards to your recent column in “The Americano” titled “The Misguided Drop Dobbs Now Latino Campaign.” It is amazing to me that a Latino who chooses to work for an outfit funded by Newt Gingrich would call any other Latino efforts “Misguided.” In case you have forgotten, Newt Gingrich had one of the worst records in supporting Latinos during his tenure in Congress. In fact, during his last term in Congress, he received a score of 0% by the nonpartisan National Hispanic Leadership Agenda Congressional Scorecard.

You also mention that our efforts are “another tactical mistake just like they did a few years back when they organized major street protests.” How funny! Let me enlighten you again. The major protests that occurred during the heated immigration debate led to the largest increase in citizenship applications by Hispanic immigrants, and then translated into record turnout by Hispanic voters in the 2008 presidential election. You can learn all about it in our report Hispanics Rising II. The only tactical mistake going on here is that Newt thinks that simply by taking Spanish lessons and starting this website, that he will be able to deceive Hispanics into supporting his presidential bid.

“I am sure he would be more than happy now to have a leading Latino from La Raza come on his show so he could try to show them up.” What???? It seems as if you have no knowledge of anything that has been occurring in the Latino community for the past several years. Then again, that would make you a perfect choice for Newt’s new publication. Tell you what Ricardo, I would be more than happy to have you come to an NDN event so that you can try to show me up. If you are going to come after our efforts, you are going to have to come at us with more than that. Talk about misguided efforts.

GOP Brand Continues To Suffer Among Hispanics

Las Vegas, NV - I recently posted about the Census data that shows huge opportunities for millions of new Hispanics to register to vote before the next presidential.  You can read the post here.  It has been very clear that over the past couple of election cycles the GOP brand has been severely tarnished among Hispanic voters.  This is an issue that we discuss in detail in our report Hispanics Rising

The most recent poll by Research 2000 shows that the Republican Party is viewed favorably by just 8% of Hispanic voters.  Yes that is correct 8%, and to further complicate the situation for Republicans another Hispanic elected official has quit the party.  Ivan Marte who is the Chairman of the Rhose Island Republican Assembly quit the party as a result of US Representative Joe Wilson's infamous outburst duirng President Obama's address on healthcare reform to a joint session of Congress.  We know that Representative Wilson's outburst was as much as an attack on Hispanics as it was on President Obama. 

According to Research 2000, the Republican Party began the year with 20% favorability among Hispanic voters.  During the past year, Republican leaders have sought to demonize Hispanic immigrants in the Economic Stimulus debate and the Healthcare debate, and they attacked Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor for being too Hispanic.  Which brings us to the current 8%.  So has the Republican Party decided to abandon any efforts to pursue support among the Hispanic electorate, or have they just forgotten how to do that?  The next election is slightly more than a year away, and I guess we will find out very soon.

Immigrants and Healthcare Reform Debate Continues

Las Vegas, NV - John Brummett published an interesting column on the debate regarding coverage of immigrants in the healthcare reform package.

Whether we should erect a border wall or execute a roundup of illegals or establish a path to earned citizenship -- these are important matters to debate. But whether it's better for the people working and living here to have health insurance while they're here so that we can spread our costs and limit our collective exposure, which is the very point of universal coverage -- that's an entirely different question and one not at all hard to answer vigorously in the affirmative.

Especially when the guy just wants to pay for it himself.

You can read the entire article here

Las Vegas US Representative Shelley Berkley also joined the discussion being quoted in the Review Journal as stating:

"It is very insulting when the finger is pointed at you. All of a sudden it is demanded you show your citizenship before you get health care," she said. "What if you can't get your hands on it? What form of identification would be adequate."

She said it's especially exasperating when reform opponents demand the inclusion of restrictive amendments without any intention of ever voting for a bill.

Indeed, it is disconcerting to see so many Congressional leaders seek to appease radical legislators who dont have any interest in supporting a bill on Healthcare Reform.  Operation Obstruction wins again.


Thank You US Senator Reid!

The Politico published an article today regarding US Senator Reid's re-election efforts in Nevada.  You can read the story here.  Part of the article references my bid for Mayor a few years ago.   

Four years ago in this sprawling desert town, a powerful labor union abruptly withdrew its endorsement of Republican Mayor Mike Montandon.

The reason, relayed to Montandon by a top union official: “Harry told us to.”

In an interview during a raucous labor union rally in Las Vegas, Reid said he couldn’t recall the union endorsement that went to his former aide, Andres Ramirez, instead of to Montandon. But he said that he pushes candidates like Ramirez who he thinks are best for public office.

Thanks for the support Senator.  You can count on me being there for you.

TODAY - NDN Kicks Off New Series on the Economy w/ Jagdish Bhagwati, Robert Shapiro

Please join NDN and its affiliate, the New Policy Institute, today at noon for the kick-off a new series of events discussing the challenges facing the American and global economies. The series, coming months after policymakers confronted the most serious global economic crisis of the modern era, will examine domestic and international economic issues with the ultimate aim of envisioning a new economic strategy for the age of globalization. This event comes at a particularly important moment in this conversation as America and an increasingly important group of the world's leading economic powers prepare for the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh later this month. 

BhagwatiJoining us today will be leading international economist Dr. Jagdish Bhagwati, Senior Fellow for International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations, the University Professor at Columbia University, special adviser to the UN and the World Trade Organization, and author of In Defense of Globalization and Termites in the Trading System. He, along with NDN Globalization Initiative Chair Dr. Robert Shapiro, will discuss the impact of the Great Recession on international trade and the trading system, the danger of protectionism, and the path forward on the Doha Development Round. Shapiro will open the event with brief remarks and moderate a question and answer period. Both speakers will take questions from the live audience and those watching online.

Tuesday, September 8; light lunch served at 12:00pm
NDN: 729 15th St. NW, First Floor
A live webcast will begin at 12:15 p.m. ET
RSVP | Watch webcast

To learn more about the work of NDN's Globalization Initiative, which seeks to create a 21st century economic strategy for America, visit www.ndn.org. For more on NDN's affiliate, the New Policy Institute, visit www.newpolicyinstitute.org.

For some background material prior to the event, please take a look at:

The Key to the Fall Debate: Staying Focused on the Economy

The last few months have not been particularly good ones for Democrats.  That's the bad news.  The good news is there a clear roadmap for how they can use the coming months to get back on track, and it revolves around staying relentlessly focused on the economy and the struggle of every day people.  

1) The Lack of Income Growth for Average Families is the Greatest Domestic Challenge Facing America Today.   Depending on how you cut the data, American families have not seen their incomes rise in at least eight, and perhaps, ten years.  Even in the Bush recovery, which was by many measures, robust, median incomes declined, poverty levels increased, debt loads exploded.  The typical American family ended the Bush era making $1,000 less than at the beginning. 

Basic economics tells us when productivity increases wages and incomes rise.  When GDP expands, jobs are created at a certain rate.  Neither of these events took place in the Bush era, leading us here at NDN to argue that there is a large structural change being brought about by globalization that is making it harder for the American economy to create jobs and raise the standard of living of every day people.

That median incomes dropped during a robust economic recovery made the Bush recovery different from any other recovery in American history, and has made the current Great Recession different from other recessions.  The American consumer was already in a very weakened state before the current recession, which is why the recession has been more virulent than many predicted, and why the coming "recovery" might be so anemic.  The economy seems to be going through profound, structural change, making old economic models anachronistic.  We are literally in a "new economy" now, one that is not well understood, and one that is confusing even the President's top advisers. 

Simply put, getting people's incomes up is the most important domestic challenge facing those in power today.  It is not surprising that other issues like health care, energy policy and climate change are being seen through a prism of "will this make my life, my economic struggle better today?" because so many families have been down so long, and things have gotten an awful lot worse this year.   Regardless of what they hope to be graded on by the public, the basket of issues that will do more to determine the success of the President and his Party is both the belief that things are getting better, and the reality that they are for most people. 

2) The Public Believes the Economy Is By Far and Away the Most Important Issue Facing the Nation Today.   In poll after poll this year, the public has made it clear that the economy is their most important issue, with really nothing coming in a strong number two.  The new Pew poll out this week maintains the basic ratio we have seen for months: mid 50s say the economy is number one; 20 percent of the American people say health care is their number one concern; and literally "zero" pick energy (see the chart to the right).

While one could mount an argument that one should not govern by polls, one can also ignore them at their own peril.  The country wants their leaders focusing on what is their number one concern - their ability to make a living and provide for their families in a time of economic transformation - which also happens to be, in this case, the most important domestic issue facing the country. 

My own belief is that one of the reasons the President and the Democrats have seen their poll numbers drop is that they have spent too much time talking about issues of lesser concern to people while the economy has gotten worse.   There is a strong argument to be made that the President and the Democrats have taken their eye of the economic ball, and are paying a price for it.  This doesn't mean the President shouldn't be talking about health care, climate change, education, immigration reform, but they must be addressed in ways that reflects both their perceived and actual importance; and as much as possible discussed in the context of long term and short term benefit for every day people and not abstract concepts like "recovery," "growth," "prosperity," which in this decade are things that have happened to other people. 

We have long believed that the lack of a sufficient governmental response to the increasing struggle of every day people has been the central driver of the volatility in the American electorate in recent years (see here and here).  Given the poll and economic data of recent months it is possible that the conditions which have created this volatility remains, and simply cannot be ignored for too long.

3) The Way Forward - Make The Struggle of Every Day People The Central Focus Of the National Debate.    The great domestic challenge facing President Obama is to ensure that, in this new age of globalization and the "rise of the rest," the country sees not "growth" or "recovery" but prosperity that is broadly shared.  Until incomes and wages are rising again, fostering broad-based prosperity has to be the central organizing principle of center-left politics.  It is a job we should be anxious to take on given our philosophical heritage, and one that we simply must admit is a little harder and more complex than many have led us to believe.  

Luckily, the President has been given three significant events in September to begin to make this rhetorical and governing turn - Labor Day next week, and the G20 and UN General Assembly meetings in late September.  He can use this events to re-knit together his argument, weaving in health reform and energy/climate change (and we believe immigration reform too) along the way.  For there is no broad-based prosperity in 21st century America without health care costs coming down (which has to happen to allow us to cover more people), and a successful transition to a low-carbon economy.  Even though the Congressional committee and legislative process requires these to be separate conversations, in fact they are one conversation, one strategy for 21st century American success, one path forward for this mighty and great nation. 

Vice President Biden's speech about the economy today is a very good start in this needed repositioning.  But much more must be done.  In a recent essay I wrote:

There have been calls from some quarters for a 2nd stimulus plan, an acknowledgment that what the first stimulus has not done enough to stop the current economic deterioration.  This may be necessary, but I think what will need to be done is much more comprehensive than just a new stimulus plan.  Future action could include a much more aggressive action against foreclosures, a more honest assessment of the health of our financial sector, an immediate capping of credit card rates and a rollback of actions taken by credit card issuers in the last few months, a speeding up of the 2010 stimulus spending, a completion of the Doha trade round and a much more aggressive G20 effort to produce a more successful global approach to the global recession, the quick passage of the President's community college proposal, enacting comprehensive immigration reform which will bring new revenues into the federal and state governments while removing some of the downward pressure on wages at the low end of the workforce, and recasting both the President's climate and health care initiatives as efforts which will help stop our downward slide and create future growth.

These are some thoughts on how to re-engage the economic conversation but many other people also have great ideas on what to do now that the specter of a true global depression has been averted, and we have the luxury of talking about what to do next.  Which is why NDN is launching a new series of discussions on the global and American economies.  We begin next week with Dr Jagdish Bhagwati and Dr. Rob Shapiro.  Keep checking back on our site for the next events in this important new series based in Washington, DC but also webcast for anyone to watch no matter where they are.

The bottom line - the recent decline in the President's poll numbers are reversible.  The key is for he and his Party to make the struggle of every day people their number one rhetorical and governing concern.  A "new economy" is emerging in America, and it is not has been kind to most Americans.  Getting incomes and wages up in this new economy of the 21st century is in fact the most important dmoestic challenge facing the country, and one the American people are demanding a new national strategy for.  This fall is the time for the President to make it clear to the American people that he understands their concerns, has a strategy to ensure their success in this new economy, and will make their success the central organizing principle of his Administration until prosperity is once again broadly shared.

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