Halt To Gov’t Raids Not An Option To Boost Census

Halt to gov't raids not an option to boost census

By Hope Yen
The Associated Press, October 1, 2009

Washington, DC (AP) — With the 2010 census six months away, the Commerce Department said Thursday it won't seek a halt to immigration raids as it did in the previous census in hopes of improving participation in hard-to-count communities.

In a statement, the department said it is committed to an accurate count of U.S. residents, including both legal and illegal immigrants. Spokesman Nick Kimball said officials will not ask the Homeland Security Department to stop large-scale immigration raids during the high stakes count that begins April 1.

That position is a departure from the one taken in the 2000 census, when immigration officials at the request of the Census Bureau informally agreed not to conduct raids. The bureau two years ago asked DHS to hold off again in 2010, but that was rejected by the Bush administration, which said it would continue to enforce federal laws.

On Thursday, the Commerce Department echoed that position and said it would not be revisiting the matter.

'Our job is to count every resident once, and in the right place, and that's what we do,' Kimball said. 'All the information the Census Bureau collects is protected by law and will not be shared with any other agency. Neither the Commerce Department nor the Census Bureau will ask DHS to refrain from exercising their lawful authority.'

It remained unclear what Commerce's stance might have on the likelihood of immigration raids next year. In recent months, the government has said it was seeking to shift enforcement efforts more toward criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants as well as cases in which an illegal immigrant may pose a safety threat to the community.

The Commerce statement comes as the Census Bureau enters the final stretch of preparations for the decennial count, which is used to apportion House seats and distribute nearly $450 billion in federal aid. With an effort to overhaul U.S. immigration laws expected to take place sometime next year, Census Director Robert Groves has said he's particularly worried that tensions over immigration will deter people from participating in the count.

Rev. Miguel Rivera, chairman of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, has been urging Hispanics to boycott the census until there is action on an immigration overhaul.

On Thursday, a coalition of Latino groups, including Univision and the National Coalition, announced a grass-roots campaign to boost participation in their communities and to resist calls to boycott the census. The groups said that getting an accurate count of the fast-growing Latino community is the best way to push change.

'Ensuring our nation's second largest population group is fully counted is critical to recognizing our nation's diversity and to building future political strength,' said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund.