- The Washington Times - Friday, August 17, 2007


The Census Bureau wants immigration agents to suspend enforcement raids during the 2010 census so the government can better count illegal aliens.

Raids during the population count would make an already distrustful group even less likely to cooperate with government workers who are supposed to include them, the Census Bureau’s second-ranking official said in an interview.

Deputy Director Preston Jay Waite said immigration-enforcement officials did not conduct raids for several months before and after the 2000 census. But the political climate today is even more volatile on the issue of illegal aliens.

Enforcement agents “have a job to do,” Mr. Waite said. “They may not be able to give us as much of a break” in 2010.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman declined to say whether immigration officials would halt raids. “If we were, we wouldn’t talk about it,” Pat Reilly said.

“For us to suspend that enforcement would probably take a lot more than one meeting,” Miss Reilly said. “We would have to discuss this at the highest levels of both agencies.”

The issue arises as the U.S. struggles to resolve the fate of an estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens. After Congress failed to pass an immigration overhaul sought by the president, the Bush administration last week said it will step up efforts to enforce immigration laws.

One lawmaker said she thinks “it’s nuts” for the Census Bureau to ask for a break in enforcement.

“I can tell them the American people have grown sick and tired of their immigration laws not being enforced. They are not going to tolerate enforcement being suspended for any amount of time,” said Rep. Candice S. Miller, Michigan Republican.

The Constitution requires the Census Bureau to count everyone, including illegal aliens, in the census. The once-a-decade population count is then used to apportion seats in Congress and to appropriate billions of dollars in federal spending each year.

Mrs. Miller introduced a constitutional amendment that would apportion seats in Congress based only on the number of U.S. citizens in each state.

The Census Bureau plans to approach all federal agencies for help in getting an accurate count, Mr. Waite said.

Illegal aliens are notoriously hard to count, though outside analysts estimate that census workers count 85 percent to 90 percent of them.

Census workers ask immigrants whether they are citizens; they do not ask whether they are in the country legally.

“We’re supposed to count every resident. If you go out and ask, ‘Are you here illegally?’ they are going to run,” said Kenneth Prewitt, who directed the Census Bureau during the 2000 census.

Mr. Prewitt said immigration officials informally agreed to cooperate with the Census Bureau during the 2000 census by not conducting any large-scale raids.

Miss Reilly, the immigration-enforcement spokeswoman, said she cannot confirm any informal agreements to scale back enforcement during the 2000 census.

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