Blumenthal Struggles to Defend Opposition to Citizenship Question on Census

CNN host Alisyn Camerota pressed Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) Wednesday over his opposition to a question about U.S. citizenship in the upcoming decennial Census, wondering why it wouldn't hurt to know an accurate number of illegal immigrants living in the U.S.

The Commerce Department announced Monday the question would again be part of the Census in 2020, drawing outrage from the left over its concerns that illegal immigrants would not complete the questionnaire. Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez called it a form of "voter suppression."

"What's wrong with that question?" Camerota asked.

"First, it violates the Constitution, which—" Blumenthal started.

"Why?" Camerota asked.

"—requires Census tabulation to be done on every person, everyone who lives in the United States, not necessarily just on citizens. Second as a practical matter, it undercounts people who live in states or in areas that may need federal funding, so it short-changes—" Blumenthal said.

"But hold on," Camerota said. "You're saying it undercounts them because they won't reveal it. They will hide, you're saying, whether or not they're a citizen, because on the face of it, it looks like it's looking for transparency. It looks as if you'll be able to get an accurate count of how many undocumented immigrants are here versus citizens."

Blumenthal said that was "spin" by the Trump administration.

"The practical effect will be to shortchange areas of the country where there are a large number of undocumented people," he said.

Camerota didn't let up, quoting the Commerce Department as wanting accurate numbers as to how many people truly live in the U.S. and how many of them are illegal immigrants. She also quoted a tweet from Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) blasting the "absurd freak out" over the citizenship question.

"We should know, but not through the Census," Blumenthal said, saying the law was to count every person, not simply every citizen. "We want to know what the characteristics are of our total population, not just of citizens. You're right. Citizens should be counted. There are other ways to do it."

Camerota noted no one can truly say the number of illegal immigrants living in the U.S.

"Would it help to know?" Camerota asked.

"It would help to have comprehensive immigration reform," Blumenthal said.