His­pan­ics urged to boy­cott cen­sus to spite Obama

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

An­gered by Pres­i­dent Obama’s lack of suc­cess in le­gal­iz­ing il­le­gal im­mi­grants, some His­panic ac­tivists are urg­ing all His­pan­ics to boy­cott the 2010 cen­sus as a sign of dis­plea­sure.

But they’re ve­he­mently op­posed by ma­jor His­panic groups, who say it’s crit­i­cal that all His­pan­ics — those in the United States legally and those in the na­tion il­le­gally — be counted. Some groups also have asked the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to sus­pend im­mi­gra­tion raids while cen­sus tak­ers are in the field, hop­ing that will make il­le­gal im­mi­grants more likely to re­spond to ques­tions.

It’s just the lat­est trou­ble in what’s turn­ing into a rocky runup to the cen­sus next year.

Dur­ing a con­gres­sional hear­ing two weeks ago, a Demo­cratic se­na­tor told Cen­sus Bureau Di­rec­tor Robert M. Groves that the Amer­i­can Com­mu­nity Sur­vey — a yearly sur­vey the bureau mails to a small sam­pling of Amer­i­cans — pries too deeply and is so con­fus­ing that it ap­peared at first to be a case of mail fraud.

Mean­while, a group of Repub­li­can se­na­tors is try­ing to have the 2010 cen­sus form in­clude a ques­tion about cit­i­zen­ship. They are try­ing to set a prece­dent that con­gres­sional seats be reap­por­tioned based on a count of cit­i­zens, rather than all res­i­dents.

The cen­sus is­sue is roil­ing His­panic and im­mi­grant rights groups. Ma­jor or­ga­ni­za­tions and broad­cast­ers are mount­ing a cam­paign for par­tic­i­pa­tion, but some ac­tivists ar­gue that Democrats and Mr. Obama haven’t done enough to earn His­panic sup­port for the ef­fort.

“The only thing left for the im­mi­grant to bar­gain is some­thing they want from the im­mi­grant, and that is that the per­son be counted. If that per­son re­fuses to co­op­er­ate, re­fuses to par­tic­i­pate, re­fuses to com­ply, now he has a mod­icum of lever­age,” said Na­tivo Lopez, pres­i­dent of the Mex­i­can Amer­i­can Po­lit­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion.

The Rev. Miguel Rivera, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Coali­tion of Latino Clergy and Chris­tian Leaders, is call­ing for a boy­cott specif­i­cally by il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

He said a count can’t be ac­cu­rate with so many peo­ple liv­ing ipa­tion. One ex­am­ple is the Univi­sion tele­vi­sion net­work, which will in­clude pro-cen­sus mes­sages in its news­casts and its reg­u­lar en­ter­tain­ment pro­gram­ming.

Still, some His­panic ad­vo­cates say there’s too much fear in the im­mi­grant com­mu­nity to con­duct an ac­cu­rate count. They’re call­ing for the Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment to sus­pend im­mi­gra­tion raids for part of next year.

Joseph Vil­lela, pol­icy ad­vo­cate for the Coali­tion for Hu­mane Im­mi­grant Rights of Los An­ge­les, said the Cen­sus Bureau re­quested in 1990 and 2000 that

“This is the most im­por­tant cen­sus for the Latino com­mu­nity be­cause it’s the first cen­sus in which Lati­nos make up the na­tion’s sec­ond-largest pop­u­la­tion group,” Ar­turo Var­gas, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Latino Elected and Ap­pointed Of­fi­cials (NALEO), who op­poses the boy­cott, said.

in the shad­ows and that count­ing il­le­gal im­mi­grants in­flates num­bers in places where many res­i­dents can’t vote. He said he fears those res­i­dents who are counted can’t ever get true rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

“The truth is that count­ing un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants cre­ates what we call ghost elec­toral dis­tricts, and that is com­pletely im­moral,” he said.

He said Mr. Obama has moved too slowly to le­gal­ize il­le­gal im­mi­grants and has in­stead em­braced tougher en­force­ment mea­sures.

“We’re the ones who are see­ing what is hap­pen­ing to the mem­bers of our churches,” he said.

Mr. Rivera and Mr. Lopez are be­ing ve­he­mently fought by Ar­turo Var­gas, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Latino Elected and Ap­pointed Of­fi­cials (NALEO), who calls a boy­cott “non­sen­si­cal and ir­re­spon­si­ble.”

“What they ac­tu­ally are do­ing is em­bold­en­ing the very same peo­ple that are hold­ing up com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form, the very same peo­ple who would like to see im­mi­grants leave the coun­try,” he said.

Mr. Var­gas said the cen­sus is the third part of His­panic leaders’ longer-term strat­egy.

Af­ter the im­mi­grant rights marches and leg­isla­tive bat­tles sev­eral years ago, His­panic po­lit­i­cal leaders have pushed le­gal im­mi­grants to ap­ply for cit­i­zen­ship. Last year, they broad­ened that ef­fort by ask­ing new vot­ers and all His­panic vot­ers to turn out in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Next year, they’ll try to show their num­bers in the cen­sus.

“This is the most im­por­tant cen­sus for the Latino com­mu­nity be­cause it’s the first cen­sus in which Lati­nos make up the na­tion’s sec­ond-largest pop­u­la­tion group,” he said.

NALEO has teamed with ma­jor Span­ish-lan­guage me­dia out­lets to push for broad par­tic- im­mi­gra­tion law en­force­ment cease. He said no such re­quest has been made this time.

“Given that there’s no clear mes­sage from, in this case, the Com­merce Depart­ment and the Cen­sus Bureau to specif­i­cally re­quest [the Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment] to stop th­ese raids, then ob­vi­ously folks are not go­ing to trust any cen­sus work­ers,” he said.

Congress re­views the ques­tions and has over­sight over the cen­sus, but some law­mak­ers have bris­tled at the broad­ness of the cen­sus. Ear­lier this year, Rep. Michele Bach­mann, Min­nesota Repub­li­can, touched off con­tro­versy when she told The Wash­ing­ton Times’ “Amer­ica’s Morn­ing News” ra­dio pro­gram that she plans only to fill out the num­ber of peo­ple in her house­hold on her 2010 cen­sus form.

Mr. Rivera and Mr. Lopez said they per­son­ally agree with her.

“We tell peo­ple, and I’m the first to de­clare it, I ab­so­lutely will not co­op­er­ate, nor com­ply, with the Cen­sus Bureau nor the fed­eral law,” Mr. Lopez said, adding that if the bureau tries to im­pose penal­ties on him, “I am will­ing to suf­fer those con­se­quences.”

The Cen­sus Bureau’s Amer­i­can Com­mu­nity Sur­vey took fire from se­na­tors last week.

Sen. Roland W. Bur­ris, Illi­nois Demo­crat, told Mr. Groves, the cen­sus di­rec­tor, that his for­mer job as state at­tor­ney gen­eral gave him plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence with mail fraud and that he ini­tially thought the sur­vey was a scam.

The Amer­i­can Com­mu­nity Sur­vey is a long ques­tion­naire sent each year to a small sam­pling of house­holds. It’s de­signed to give the gov­ern­ment a sense of de­mo­graphic trends in be­tween the de­cen­nial cen­suses. Mr. Bur­ris, whose daugh­ter re­ceived a ques­tion­naire re­cently, said the whole thing was too con­fus­ing.

“Do you all re­ally ex­pect peo­ple to send th­ese back?” he asked Mr. Groves.

Sen. Tom Coburn, Ok­la­homa Repub­li­can, said he re­ceived an Amer­i­can Com­mu­nity Sur­vey last year and filled out only half of the ques­tions.

“There’s noth­ing in the Con­sti­tu­tion, in the first ar­ti­cle, that gives the power of the cen­sus to do that,” he said, adding that he would “de­fend any­body” who doesn’t want to com­plete the long-form ques­tion­naire.

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