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.