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 ‘clergy’

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.

Update: Latino Clergy Divided Over Census Boycott

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

Teresa Watanabe of the L.A. Times reports on the decision for Latino members of the clergy to encourage their congregants to boycott the 2010 Census:

U.S. census sparks feud over the counting of illegal immigrants

A national Latino clergy group wants 1 million to boycott the count in an effort to press for legalization. But immigrant activists decry the plan.
By Teresa Watanabe
May 31, 2009

In a high-stakes battle that could affect California’s share of federal funding and political representation, immigrant activists are vowing to combat efforts by a national Latino clergy group to persuade 1 million illegal immigrants to boycott the 2010 U.S. census.

The Washington, D.C.-based National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders, which says it represents 20,000 Latino churches in 34 states, recently announced that a quarter of its 4 million members were prepared to join the boycott as a way to intensify pressure for legalization and to protect themselves from government scrutiny.

“Before being counted, we need to be legalized,” said the Rev. Miguel Rivera, the coalition’s chairman and founder.

But the boycott call has infuriated many Latino organizations. La Opinión, in a recent editorial, denounced it as a “dangerous mistake” that “verges on political suicide” while an official with the National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials called it “wildly irresponsible.”

“This is a phenomenal step backward in the strides we have made to make sure we are equal,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Latino officials group.

The decennial census, which counts all people regardless of immigration status, is used to allocate federal funds for education, housing, healthcare, transportation and other local needs. By some estimates, every person counted results in $1,000 in federal funds.

The census is also used to apportion the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, which are based on a state’s population.

According to a study in 2003, California’s sizable illegal immigrant population allowed it to gain three House seats it might otherwise not have received. The state’s illegal immigrant population also caused Indiana, Michigan and Mississippi to each lose one of their seats and prevented Montana from gaining a seat.

The study by the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based research group that promotes immigration restrictions, also argued that the illegal immigrant population skewed the “one man, one vote” principle in elections.

In 2002, the study found, it took almost 100,000 votes to win the typical congressional race in the four states that lost or failed to gain a seat, compared with 35,000 votes to win in immigrant-rich districts in California.

Back in 1988, the effect on apportionment, which also affects the Electoral College, prompted a lawsuit by 40 members of Congress, Pennsylvania and the Federation for American Immigration Reform to prevent the Census Bureau from counting illegal immigrants. The complaint was dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court for lack of standing.

“People who have no right to be in this country should not be counted,” said federation President Dan Stein. “It’s awfully hard to explain to U.S. citizens why they keep losing political representation to states like California because of people who broke immigration laws.”

Vargas and others questioned the boycott organizers’ political motivations, noting that most of them were conservative.

Rivera acknowledged that his coalition endorsed George W. Bush in 2004 and slightly favored Republican presidential nominee John McCain over Democrat Barack Obama by a vote of 52% to 48% last year. But he denied that the boycott was aimed at aiding Republicans.

He said his group was concerned that federal funds obtained in part through the counting of illegal immigrants would be used against them to increase arrests and harassment by local law enforcement.

Rivera also said he wanted to use the boycott as a way to pressure Congress to pass legislation offering legalization to illegal immigrants.

So far, his group appears to have gained little traction in California. A group of affiliated Latino pastors plans to meet in the next week or two to discuss the boycott call but has made no decision yet, according to Jose Caballero, a Camarillo minister.

But other Latino leaders say they are nervous about the boycott.

“The fact that they are getting a lot of media attention concerns us that they could do a lot of damage,” said Brent Wilkes, executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens in Washington, D.C.

Using the same slogan as their successful citizenship campaigns — “Ya es Hora,” or “It’s Time” — Spanish-language media, community groups, labor unions and churches plan to launch a far-reaching campaign urging mass participation in the census.

Boycott or not, they have their work cut out for them. Although the Census Bureau by law must keep information confidential, that message has not entirely gotten through.

At Our Lady Queen of Angels Church near Olvera Street, migrant farm worker Juan Garcia said he would not participate because of fears of how the information might be used.

Another illegal immigrant, Julian Chavez, also voiced concern that census workers would contact him at work, go to his home and ask nosy questions. Asked if he would participate, Chavez hedged his answer.

“Will there be consequences?” he asked. “I have my family to think about.”