THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Census and the GOP Latino Strategy: If You Can't Beat 'Em, Don't Count 'Em

The amendment to the fiscal 2010 Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill (HR 2847) being proposed in the senate right now to stop funding the 2010 Census until they change their survey to include questions about citizenship may be the final nail in the coffin of the GOP/Latino relationship.

Fresh from their successful assault on ACORN, who incurred the wrath of the GOP not because members gave bad advice to pretend pimps, but because of their ability to register millions of poor people ahead of the 2008 elections, the radical right now turns on the revered and apolitical institution of the Census Bureau, in the hopes of intimidating future generations from the most basic of social participation -- being counted.

Specifically, Republican Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana and Bob Bennett of Utah have proposed to require all those who fill out the surveys to affirm their citizenship status, and then attempt to discount millions of people who peacefully live, work and contribute to America. The justification is that the undocumented should not be counted because they can't vote. However, there is no question of whether people are ex-cons, another population of people who do not have voting rights in many states, but are counted within the census numbers. The amendment gets even narrower as they consider making the choice "citizen" or "non-citizen" seeking to discount even further those who are "legal" residents or have visas but haven't yet become full citizens.

What they hope of course, is not only that this new requirement will "out" the undocumented, but that it will also intimidate Latinos nationally, including citizens and residents, from filling out the surveys for fear of having to out a family member, house guest, employee, or friend. They hope to not only push the undocumented further into the shadows, but erase from the rolls a whole community of people, immigrant or otherwise, who are shaping the largest population shift this country has ever seen.

Removing Acorn from the picture was essential to this strategy. The Republicans knew that ACORN had the drive and motivation, and the thousands of workers who knew the streets better than any bureaucrat or well intentioned bourgeois volunteer, and could efficiently uncover previously under-counted households, especially in poor and of color communities.

The next step in their playbook to attempt to slow down the "The Great Progression" as author and journalist Geraldo Rivera calls it, would be to intimidate those who may be motivated to be counted by forcing the citizenship declaration. The proposed amendment to require resident affirmation seeks to subtly imply that the government wants to not only know where you are, but kick you or your loved ones out. The irony of the situation is that the undocumented rarely fill out the survey, mostly because of their mistrust on how the information will be used, and because the surveys are sent to households, not to individuals with no permanent address. It is one of the reasons to suspect that the target is not actually the undocumented, but a community commonly associated with them.

While sinister, the short term gain of this strategy has the bigger potential of being a long term loss for the Republican party, and those who support this measure. The Republicans are not seeing past the idea that these people are "other" or that they are "foreigners" because if they did, they would realize they have the potential for attracting scores of first generation immigrants, who typically have conservative, Christian ideals and come from center-right countries. For every immigrant with or without documentation that they intimidate or provide additional barriers for them to become integrated, positive members of American society, there are many more in the younger generations, citizens all, with the very clear memories of the experience of their families and communities, and how they are being treated. These current and future citizens are making choices as to where to place their money and their allegiances politically. A lack of representation in the census numbers will not hide the very real fact that the future of Latinos and the future of the United States of America are irreversibly connected. By continuing to use every opportunity to discount the fastest growing population of Americans, the GOP may be the ones counting themselves into oblivion.