A Genealogue News Flash [What's That?]Congress granted President Bush this week broad authority to interpret the census-taking guidelines of the United States government. The President welcomed the bill's passage, saying that without this new authority he wouldn't be able to fulfill his Constitutional duties.
"I swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution," he told those gathered in the Rose Garden on Friday for the bill signing. "The Constitution says we have to take a census every ten years, and ... well, if people don't want to be counted that gets me wondering what they're trying to hide."
Hiding from the census taker in 2010 will be nearly impossible, given the sweeping changes to Census Bureau policies soon to be implemented. Citizens who fail to return their census forms by mail will be visited by a representative of the Bureau—now part of the Department of Justice. Enumerators will be authorized to detain non-respondents for up to seven days, during which time they will be educated on the history and importance of the census, and encouraged to complete their forms. Enumerators will be forbidden from inflicting physical harm on the detainees, with "physical harm" defined in the new regulations as "anything that might leave a bruise."
Traditional census-taking techniques will be supplemented with techniques borrowed from the National Security Agency. As a consequence, many Americans of Middle Eastern descent will discover that their census forms have already been filled out. They will be required only to sign the form, submit their fingerprints, and name three friends they suspect of having extremist tendencies.
Civil libertarians are outraged that Congress has ceded such broad powers to the Executive Branch. Opponents of the bill blame Democrats for not mounting a filibuster, but Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid insists that the criticism is unfair.
"If not for the efforts of Senate Democrats," he contends, "this bill would have been much, much worse. Thanks to us, a person who fills out his questionnaire with the wrong colored ink will be waterboarded for only 24 hours instead of 48."