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: