This week, Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio voiced his opposition to including undocumented immigrants in 2010 Census figures used to distribute federal funding and seats in the House of Representatives. On this issue, Rubio takes a principled stand against common sense.
Why does this matter? If the census were to exclude undocumented immigrants, Florida could miss the opportunity to pick up an extra Congressional seat. Every person truly counts: after the 2000 Census, Utah missed gaining an additional House seat by only 857 people.
It's pretty transparent that Rubio's new stance against the census is a political ploy to prove his hard-line stance on illegal immigration in the Senate primary against Governor Charlie Crist. Don't be fooled by his earnest appeal that it's a "voter's rights issue." Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution clearly states that representatives should be apportioned according to a count of "the whole number of persons in each state." This includes non-voters, non-citizens and yes, undocumented immigrants.
On FOXNews, Rubio made sure to say that he doesn't advocate leaving undocumented immigrants out of the census altogether. But in his words, an accurate census is only useful so we know how "bad of an immigration problem we have." This sort of rhetoric sends harmful signals to the immigrant community, and almost guarantees that some in Florida will remain in the shadows come census day on April 1st.
But the state certainly can't afford to let that happen. Figures from the headcount determine the allocation of over $400 billion in federal and state funding. Without a full count of its undocumented residents, Florida could miss out on millions in much-needed resources for roads, schools and hospitals.
Fortunately, other Sunshine State Republicans have been quick to distance themselves from Rubio's position. On Wednesday, Representative Mario Diaz-Balart gave a fact-check on the issue: "It would be pretty damaging to Florida. The reality is, whether you like it or not, there are undocumented, illegal people in the state. Pretending they're not there, not counting them, doesn't make them go away." For his part, Crist came out strong for a full count of all Florida residents, and said to do otherwise would be "absurd."
Rest assured, Floridians. This year's census will follow Federal law and attempt to count every resident in the US, regardless of citizenship status. As we inch closer to the census, public officials from both sides of the aisle need to stand up, support an inclusive census and stop putting the interests of all residents aside to win cheap political points.