April 24, 2009

States Launch Census Outreach Efforts

Wednesday, April 22, 2009
By Emily Kimball, Special to Stateline.org

With the 2010 Census a year away, some states already are bracing for the nationwide head count that will decide their share of U.S. House seats and billions of federal dollars. The new population numbers also will be used to redraw state legislative districts.

Determined to get every resident counted, states are launching Web sites and committees to spread the word to residents, including hard-to-count groups. Illegal immigrants, afraid to fill out their surveys for fear of deportation, and transient families, displaced by home foreclosures, present new challenges to outreach efforts.

Population projections estimate that next year’s count will shift some House seats from states in the Northeast and Midwest to states in the South and West, according to a recent study by Election Data Services, a political consulting firm based in Virginia. The total number of representatives, 435, will not change.

The Census results also will determine states’ share of federal funds.

“There are a lot of (federal) programs, which are based on census data formulas, and the better count that we can get means we’ll have more federal dollars coming back to us,” said Ditas Katague, who is directing California’s Census efforts for 2010.

Mandated by the U.S. Constitution, the Census determines the country's population every 10 years. Starting next April 1, the federal government will collect demographic information on the more than 300 million U.S. residents. Households that do not answer Census surveys are visited by federal workers.

Nine states —Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and Utah — stand to gain U.S. representatives in the upcoming Census. Texas could gain the most: four additional seats. The state’s rapid population growth can be attributed to low death rates and a relatively young population with high birth rates, the result of a burgeoning Hispanic population, said Texas state demographer Karl Eschbach. Immigration from other states and foreign countries has contributed to its growth as well, he said.

Redistribution of electoral votes, determined by a state’s total congressional representation, could affect President Obama’s reelection campaign.

“A lot of (electoral votes) will be going to states which are more Republican in nature than Democratic. It will certainly have an impact on the presidential election of 2012,” said Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services.

On the other side, 12 states — California, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania — are in danger of losing representation.

About 85 percent of federal grants to state and local governments are distributed based on Census formulas. Every year, state, local and tribal governments get about $300 billion in federal funds, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates, for services ranging from health care to law enforcement. The federal government is also using population counts to hand out stimulus money.

A small margin of error or undercounting can amount to significant reductions in federal funding and representation. Utah, for example, fell 80 people short of securing a fourth U.S. House member during the 2000 Census; the seat went to North Carolina instead.

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) this month signed an executive order creating a state panel to maximize the number of residents counted in the Census; Strickland also unveiled a Web site aimed at educating the public on Census procedures and addressing privacy concerns. With a declining population, Ohio could lose two seats in the House after this count, the most in the country, according to the Election Data Services study.

In Florida, which could gain one House seat, Gov. Charlie Crist (R) in February created a similar committee, which enlists the help of at least 44 organizations including media, advertising, business and faith-based groups to put out information. The committee also has a bilingual, Spanish-English Web site to educate the public on the Census’ importance.

Massachusetts also created a Web site including a countdown of seconds until the Census, as well as historical facts from the more than 210-year history of the population survey.

In Utah, which is expected to gain one seat, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. (R) is urging local governments to create their own “complete count committees” to encourage their neighbors to participate. A statewide committee is being planned, said Juliette Tennert, Utah Director of Demographic and Economic Analysis. New York City recently planned a similar committee.

Despite the states’ best efforts, a number of challenges face Census-takers.

Undocumented immigrants sometimes fear the Census will be used for deportation, which is illegal under federal law. No authority — including the White House, U.S. Supreme Court, Internal Revenue Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, police, military, and welfare agencies — can obtain personal identifiable data from the Census Bureau.

“We’ve always been fighting fear of filling out the form, or apathy,” Katague, director of California’s Census outreach efforts, said.

The Latino community is now actively opposing participation in the Census. The National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders on Sunday (April 18) began promoting a nationwide boycott of the Census by illegal immigrants, which represent an estimated 30 percent of their church membership. Officials hope the boycott will encourage immigration reform.

“As Americans, it is clear that we must remain vigilant in the protection of our civil liberties, as leaders of the church, it is our responsibility to protect the members of our churches and until we are certain that breaches of confidentiality against racial and ethnic minority groups are not repeated, we will not urge the most vulnerable members of our congregations to come out of the shadows and voluntarily report their personal data to the Census Bureau,” said Rev. Miguel Rivera in the group's press release.

The recession is another hurdle for states.The staggering rise in foreclosures makes counting residents more difficult. Families and individuals displaced after losing their homes often become transient and live in rented spaces, group housing or mobile homes — all major deterrents to returning the mailed survey, according to the Census Bureau.

Nevada, Arizona, California, Florida, and Illinois, all states on the cusp of gaining or losing representative seats in the upcoming Census, have the nation’s top five highest rates of foreclosure, according to The RealtyTrac U.S. Foreclosure Market Report for the first quarter of 2009.

“The recession mess and the foreclosure mess are really changing the dynamic of population movement in the country,” Brace said.

The costs associated with state outreach efforts also can present problems for states facing budget gaps.

During the 2000 Census, California spent nearly $25 million in outreach efforts, including an expansive media campaign targeted at minorities.

Though California stands to lose a seat in next year’s Census, the state’s budget crisis has made large scale state-funded outreach activities impossible, according to Kratague. At a time when population-based funding is most needed, a soaring foreclosure rate of one per every 58 housing units further increases the likelihood of undercounting.

In Utah, “budgets are really tight right now, so we don’t have a specific appropriation (of outreach funds) at the state level, but we’re working on a grassroots effort using nonfinancial resources,” Tennert said.

The federal government already has begun spending an estimated $15 billion on counting and processing costs, making the 2010 Census the most expensive census in American history. The average cost for collecting information from each housing unit has risen more than 600 percent since 1970, from $14 to an estimated $100, while survey response has dropped steadily from 78 percent to 64 percent.

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April 20, 2009

Help Hispanics and the Underserved Join the Digital Age: A Call to NTIA

Washington, DC - The National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC), along with 17 leading non-profit groups, sent a letter to the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) expressing several key priorities to the Obama administration on how to best spend stimulus funds to increase adoption of broadband service among Hispanic and other underserved populations.

Congress authorized NTIA to spend $4.5 billion to urge more Americans to join the Digital Age. The letter calls on NTIA to support grant applicants who can increase access to computer hardware, establish or support technology centers in local churches, and work with community leaders to create applications that are relevant to first-time users in low-income areas, among other initiatives.

We expect to hear from NTIA in about a month or so with specific rules on how to apply. Stay tuned for updates at www.conlamic.net.

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April 18, 2009

Latino Evangelical Leaders Call for a Boycott of Census 2010: Urging Immigration Reform First

Washington, DC - Latino Pastors from throughout the nation, members of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) call upon the estimated 30% undocumented members of their churches to boycott the Census until Congress and the new administration pass a comprehensive solution to immigration reform that includes a path to legalization for an estimated 12 million undocumented people.

"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 Reverend Miguel Rivera, Chairman of CONLAMIC.

As a result of the lack of action by Congress, undocumented people, the majority Hispanic, have been forced back into the shadows in the recent years due to new state and local laws that allow law enforcement to detain and deport any person who is suspected and proved to be illegally residing in the U.S. Most of the individuals and families affected have been non-threatening, otherwise law abiding, hardworking people whose lives have been devastated. Churches have become one of the few trusted places to turn to for these immigrants.

“We cannot tell our undocumented congregants to be patient, cooperative, and to trust our government any longer. We must protect them as God would have it and urge them to protect their families from any further mistreatment,” said Rev. Miguel Rivera.

The Census Bureau has launched its efforts to count each person in America in 2010, including the traditionally undercounted Hispanic population. As many national Latino advocacy organizations join the effort to assist in educating Latinos about the importance of participating in the count – CONLAMIC pastors support the effort but not in the efforts to count undocumented individuals.

A Fordham University report confirmed that the U.S. Census Bureau provided detailed information about individual Japanese Americans from the 1940 census to American surveillance agencies during World War II. CONLAMIC pastors were shocked to learn that in 2004, it was reported that the Census Bureau provided to the Department of Homeland Security comprehensive reports listing Arab Americans populations by city and zip code.

“As Americans, we must remain vigilant in the protection of our civil liberties, as leaders of the church, it's our responsibility to protect the members of our churches and until we are certain that breaches of confidentiality against racial and ethnic minority groups are not repeated, we will not urge the most vulnerable members of our congregations to come out of the shadows and voluntarily report their personal data to the Census Bureau,” said Rev. Rivera.

“The workplace raids, family and community devastation, and deportation of harmless workers by Homeland Security, ICE, and local law enforcement have undermined the public trust and discouraged minority groups, which are already difficult to count, from participating in census surveys. We call upon Congress and our President to take swift action to bring a comprehensive solution to the immigration problem,” concluded Rev. Rivera.

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April 12, 2009

Latino National Evangelical Pastors Rejoice As Obama's Announces Immigration Reform

WASHIGTON, DC - The National Coalition Of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC)co-sponsors of the Families United comprehensive immigration reform events with Congressman Luis Gutierrez in various cities around the Country, celebrates the White House announcement, that President Obama will lead Congress to start comprehensive immigration reform legislation by May.

CONLAMIC Latino Evangelical and Christian Leaders around the Country on a conference call on Wednesday afternoon, moved to organize, a "National Prayer Vigil on Good Friday", where Latino Churches will be compelled to "Fast and Pray" on behalf of what its expected to be an "spiritual battle of profound moral consequences for America", as described by the Reverend Miguel Rivera, Chairman of the Board of Directors, which represents over 20,000 thousand Christian and Pentecostal Hispanic Churches in 34 States.

"We are committed to bring this issue in prayer, due to the fact that its a highly sensitive and polarizing issue, which needs strong will from Members of Congress to be achieve and a pouring of love from all our fellow Americans, who will need to avoid the voices of those who will seek to hijack this debate into a political opportunism" said also the Reverend Rivera.

"Many of our Pastors in Atlanta were concerned that, the tears and anxiety that raids and deportations have created among our Latino families, were going no where but now we can go back to our churches and bring these news of joy and redemption, which for sure will make our faith stronger and fill our hearts with hope, making us more proud of being preachers of the Gospel in America", said the Reverend Antonio Mansogo, President of the Georgia Hispanic Pastor's Association (CEPMA) main sponsors of a visit by Congressman Gutierrez to Atlanta, where over 3,000 people, prayed together for comprehensive immigration reform back on February 28.

"Those who have suffered the lost of large groups of families, that have being forced to move out of the State of Oklahoma, due to a State Law that punish landlords for renting an apartment to undocumented people and makes us Pastors, responsible for aid and abate church members while transporting them from their homes to our Churches, will rejoice with a humble attitude and praise God, because of these good news" said also the Reverend Jose Alfonso, Pastor of the Cornerstone Christian Church, one of the main plaintiffs in a lawsuit against legislation HB-1804 from Oklahoma, which was enacted back in May 2007.

"Our Churches in Providence, Rhode Island will celebrate with joy and prayers on Good Friday because of these news, which moves us also to believe that, the Freedom preached by Christ Our Lord on the Cross, is once again bringing deliverance and hope to those who had no other choice but to hide in the shadows of fear and terror, due to the anti-immigrant sentiments that have aroused, due to Governor Donald Carcieri's actions, empowering State Troopers to arrest and hold undocumented immigrants while being stop for traffic violations and minor offenses", said also the Reverend Eliseo Nogueras, President of the Latino Christian Clergy Association of Rhode Island.

CONLAMIC in a joint effort with the Latino Leadership Alliance will sponsor more "Families United" events with Congressman Gutierrez in New Jersey and Tennessee, on April 25 and 26. Other Members of Congress like, Representative Albio Sires and Senator Robert (Bob) Menendez, will be present.

CONLAMIC Hispanic Christian Churches will also convene for a National Day Of Prayer for Comprehensive Immigration Reform on June 6 at 12:00 noon, across the White House in Washington D.C.

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