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Census 2010: Latino Pastors Urge Census Boycott

By Ed O'Keefe

A national coalition of Latino pastors this week urged illegal immigrants to boycott the 2010 Census until Congress passes comprehensive immigration reform, a move criticized by other groups as detrimental to assuring a full count of the nation’s fastest-growing minority group.

"Our church leaders have witnessed misuse of otherwise benign Census population data by state and local public officials in their efforts to pass and enact laws that assist in the perpetration of civil rights violations and abuses against undocumented workers and families,” said Rev. Miguel A. Rivera, Chairman of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, which claims more than 20,000 members in 34 states.

“We understand that our undocumented people want to be counted and they want to understand the true American dream, but why use them as a scapegoat just to get money for our cities and persecute them or deport them after the fact?” Rivera said in an interview. While he alleged that state and local governments have unfairly interpreted Census data to target or marginalize immigrant groups, Rivera could not cite specific, documented examples of federal manipulation or improper sharing, which is prohibited by law and punishable with fines and up to five years in prison, according to Census Bureau spokesman Stephen Buckner.

“The job of the Census Bureau is to count all residents living in the United States regardless of immigration status,” Buckner said. “It is safe to participate in the Census because we do not share the information with any other law enforcement agency, government entity or private party.”

Regardless, “If comprehensive immigration is done before Dec. 31, the Census will be accurate, excellent, honest and everyone will benefit,” Rivera said.

Other Latino leaders oppose the boycott, saying it could jeopardize efforts to boost Hispanic participation by reinforcing misplaced fears.

“I understand their need to ask the community to band together and have a call to action however that call to action should not be not answering the phone or the door when the Census comes around,” said Maria Teresa Peterson, executive director of VotoLatino, one of several groups working to assure greater Latino. She suggests concerned Latinos and other immigrant groups should pressure lawmakers and the Obama administration on immigration issues through more traditional means and worries the boycott will spread to other undercounted immigrant groups.

Angelo Falcon, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy and a longtime member of a Census Bureau advisory committee on Hispanics said the pastors “are trying to find ways to leverage their position and put pressure on the administration,” to promote and help pass immigration reform. Recent Republican concerns about potential White House involvement in the Census might have also helped inspire the boycott, he said.

“A lot of us don’t understand how you use the census to leverage politically, because a lack of participation takes away so much from the Latino community itself.”

The Census Bureau will launch a multi-million dollar ad campaign early next year I hopes of boosting participation among traditionally undercounted ethnic minorities. It will also partner with major corporations and civil rights groups that will urge customers and members to fill out census questionnaires. Recent economic stimulus funding gave the Census Bureau enough money to craft a national multi-platform ad campaign on par with national advertisers like McDonalds, Falcon said.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | April 22, 2009; 12:55 PM ET
Categories:  Census  
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Rev. Miguel A. Rivera is rather disingenuous -he wants "the undocumented" to get endless services because they are Latino but he doesn't want them to be counted. Huh?

His followers will be quite chagrined when the federal bounty they count on fails to materilize after the 2010 census. As a law abiding citizen I find his grandstanding incredible. What is he thinking when he states" but why use them as a scapegoat just to get money for our cities?" He is very welcome to pay the billions they request out of his own pocket.

Posted by: AnneG | April 22, 2009 9:52 PM | Report abuse

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