Earlier this week, Florida U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio (R) accused opponent, Gov. Charlie Crist (R), of trying to “dilute the voting power of every American citizen” through his support of including immigrants in this year’s Census count. According to Rubio, “the Census should count legal American citizens only.” Rubio later edited his remarks to clarify that he was only referring to undocumented immigrants, not green card-holders like his mother and father once were. Meanwhile, Crist and many Florida Republicans have accused Rubio of simply trying to score cheap political points and putting Florida’s best interests at stake while doing so.
Crist remarks that Rubio’s “notion that you wouldn’t want to accept federal funding to make a political point is absurd.” A post on Crist’s website points out that, when asked about undocumented immigrants and the Census, Rubio initially said last week that “there’s good arguments on both sides of it,” and that he was not sure and needed to “research it more.” Rubio also allegedly stated that the census should have an “accurate count” in order to know how “bad of an immigration problem we have.” According to Crist’s Senate campaign, Rubio’s change of heart is indicative of a broader flip-flop on the immigration issue.
Crist isn’t the only one attacking Rubio’s position, several Florida Republicans and Latino activists have denounced his remarks. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) stated, “It [not counting undocumented immigrants] 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.” State Rep. Dean Cannon commented that “it’s just important that the count be accurate regardless of their [immigrant] status.” Even Marco Rubio supporter State Rep. Esteban Bovo (R) said, “So much funding is tied to the Census, and to be undercounted could have devastating effects down the line…I really don’t want our community to get shortchanged.”
A 2009 report by the Drum Major Institute (DMI) shows that not counting undocumented immigrants would lead to inaccurate demographic information and result in costly mistakes in infrastructure, education, and healthcare planning. DMI points out that businesses also rely on accurate social, economic and demographic census information so they can make smart investment decisions. DMI further argues that “leaving out undocumented immigrants deprives citizens of political power and political voice.”