My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Posts Tagged ‘christianity’

A closer look at Census push by Latino groups, evangelical churches

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

As Stephen wrote last week, Latino leaders are in a controversial collaboration with evangelical churches to encourage participation in the 2010 Census.

As part of that effort, the National Association of Latino Elected Officials is distributing Christmas posters to churches and clergy that depict Joseph and Mary on their way to Bethlehem, with a note that that Jesus was born when Joseph and Mary were traveling to participate in a census.

In the New York Times’ second article on the Census in the past week (the first was on the economy), the paper gives the Census push by Latino leaders — and their work with  clergy — a closer look.

The article reports Latino groups are worried about their members being under counted because illegal immigrants may be unlikely to fill out a government form. It also describes why the Census is a milestone of sorts for many Latino leaders:

Latino political leaders see full participation in the census as the culmination of heightened activism that began in the spring of 2006, when hundreds of thousands of Latinos marched in the streets to protest legislation then in Congress that would have toughened laws against illegal immigration. In 2007 they held a nationwide campaign to have Latino immigrants become United States citizens. That was followed last year with a huge voter registration drive.

“We want to tap into that same spirit,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, known as Naleo, a bipartisan group that is a main organizer of the census drive. “We have to go back to everybody and say, ‘Just as you marched, just as you naturalized, just as you voted, now you have to be counted.’ ”

One strategy is to encourage Latino immigrants to return the census forms by mail, rather than waiting for a census taker’s knock on the door, which could frighten illegal immigrants wary of immigration agents.

After the Senate blocked an attempt to include a citizenship question on the Census form last month, it became clear that states with significant Latino populations have a lot to gain by full (or as close to full as possible) participation. And that will translate to more funds and congressional representation for the people in those states.

However, some evangelical leaders are arguing against the campaign, objecting to the use of images of Jesus to promote the Census — and even against Latino participation in the Census at all:

But the Rev. Miguel Angel Rivera, a New Jersey pastor who heads a smaller coalition of evangelical clergy, has called for a boycott of the census.

“We need to empower the undocumented immigrants by asking them not to participate,” Mr. Rivera said, “as a way to protest the lack of commitment from this Congress to do what is right and moral, which is comprehensive immigration reform.”

He is touring the country with his boycott call, and he has gained the support of some community leaders, including Nativo López, a Mexican-American activist in Los Angeles.

Any promotional effort that mixes the government and religion is bound to get a little dicey. As the posters are displayed in evangelical churches this week, we’re interested to see what kind of reception they get — and, more importantly, whether they’ll translate into Latino Census participation.