U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio departed from his Miami colleagues Tuesday and said the decision by Commerce Secretary Ross on Monday to include a citizenship question in the 2020 Census is, essentially, no big deal.
“I personally don’t see the problem with it,″ Rubio told reporters at a “pen and pad” briefing in Tallahassee Tuesday. “I think there’s a lot of noise being made about it.”
Rubio’s comments diverge from the opinion of other members of Congress from South Florida who have said they fear some people could be dissuaded from answering the census if the citizenship question is asked. It would be the first time since the 1950s that the people are asked to identify whether they are legal citizens or not.
Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has said she fears that asking about citizenship could discourage an accurate count and rob South Florida, home to about 450,000 undocumented immigrants, from drawing down federal dollars for infrastructure projects and social service programs that are based on the census count.
U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, said he is also concerned that the question could discourage people from responding to the census tally, and ultimately harm everything from federal money to redistricting.
The U.S. Constitution requires the federal government to conduct a census every 10 years to determine how many people are living in a given area. The count traditionally attempts to include everyone, regardless of their citizenship status, including undocumented immigrants.
Rubio, however, said that since the census already asks a host of personal questions one more question -- about the legal status of people living in the country -- won’t matter.
“It asks you all sorts of other information for purposes of identifying the demographics of a community,″ he said. “They ask you how much money you make, how many kids you have, your race and ethnicity. Why wouldn’t it ask you about your citizenship status?”
“Some people are going around saying they are going to use the census document as some sort of immigration enforcement vehicle and others are concerned that there will be underreporting,″ he said. ” But the truth is, congressional districts across the state are designed by population and taking into account how many are U.S. citizens, I personally don’t see the problem with it.”
Meanwhile, civil and human rights groups have blasted the decision to include the citizenship question in the next census.
The NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice called it “a political calculation designed to undermine our Constitution and undercount children, people of color, and other vulnerable populations.”
Vanita Gupta, president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said his organization will urge Congress to overturn the Commerce Department decision.
“Adding this question will result in a bad census – deeply flawed population data that will skew public and private sector decisions to ensure equal representation, allocate government resources, and anticipate economic growth opportunities – for the next 10 years,″ he said in a statement. “The stakes are too high to allow this. We urge Congress to overturn this error in judgment.”