May 30, 2009

1 Million Undocumented Latino Congregants to Boycott Census 2010

Washington, DC - The National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) is leading a nationwide grassroots campaign to empower undocumented immigrant members of the Latino evangelical church that encourages a boycott of the 2010 Census until Congress achieves Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Pastors will gather to pray June 6th in Lafayette Square in front of the White House for a compassionate solution to the immigration problem that will help an estimated 12 million undocumented people.

"CONLAMIC pastors in cities around the nation are delivering the message to the undocumented church members not to allow themselves to be counted by the census until they are given the right to live, work, raise families, and participate in democracy of this nation," said Reverend Miguel Rivera, President of CONLAMIC.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unit of the federal government will spend 500 million in 2009 to capitalize on what it deems successful over the last several years including, investigations, detention, and removals of undocumented people from the U.S. In 2010, ICE has budgeted another 350 million tax dollars to continue these efforts.

“ICE has targeted non-threatening people and has practiced deliberate separation of families, resulting in terror and fear within Latino immigrant communities - and the Latino church finds this appalling,” said Rev. Rivera.

On Saturday, June 6th at 12:00pm, thousands of Hispanic Christians from diverse denominations will gather to pray for comprehensive immigration.

"CONLAMIC pastors have reported in from many states, such as Florida, Georgia, the Carolina’s, Virginia, Oklahoma, California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas about their support and push for the boycott among their undocumented congregants,” said Rev. Rivera. “A boycott of the Census in 2010 gives a voice to the voiceless that desperately need a compassionate solution to immigration reform.”

Farm workers, laborers, housewives, business people are using the term, “antes de contar nos tienen que legalizar”, which is Spanish for "before being counted, we must be legalized."

CONLAMIC is the largest Latino evangelical advocacy organization in the United States with a membership of more than 20,000 Hispanic churches who serve over 4 million Latino’s and an estimated one third who are undocumented.

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MAKING CENSUS SENSE

Written by nationally syndicated columnist - Miguel Perez

At first glance, it seems like a crazy idea, a counterproductive movement born out of frustration. But when you hear the people who are calling on illegal immigrants to boycott the 2010 census, some of their arguments make a lot of sense.

The boycott, organized by the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, is meant to pressure politicians to fix our broken immigration system before the U.S. Census Bureau starts counting the U.S. population April 1, 2010.

Because so many Washington politicians, including President Barack Obama, have vowed to tackle immigration reform this year, April 1 seems like a good deadline to try to keep them honest. After all, the Obama administration and the Democratic majority in Congress are moving very fast on many other important issues, and the Latino clergy members are giving them an extra three months to pass the comprehensive immigration reform they promised!

Nevertheless, for introducing the "radical" boycott idea, these Hispanic evangelical leaders have come under tremendous criticism from other Latino leaders. Some say they understand the motive but can't agree with the method. Others have charged that while the boycott may be well-intended, it ultimately will prove to be misguided and irresponsible because it would hurt the very immigrant communities the ministers are trying to defend. Others have gone as far as to question whether the whole thing is some kind of Republican conspiracy to undercount Latino immigrants in the 2010 census.

Of course, if the latter were true, it would mean that respected Latino clergy members followed a political agenda and conspired against their own communities, which is absurd!

These church leaders rightfully are speaking out in defense of their illegal immigrant brethren. They are seeking a path to legalization for the 12 million illegal immigrants estimated to be living in the United States. They say they are tired of seeing how society tells these immigrants that they don't count — except for once every 10 years, when they are told they need to be counted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The coalition's leaders argue that the census figures that can be used to empower the immigrant communities are the same statistics that are used by anti-immigrant forces to persecute illegal immigrants. They argue that the towns that need their immigrant populations to be counted so they can get federal funds are often the same towns using those funds to discriminate against immigrants.

"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," the coalition's chairman, the Rev. Miguel Rivera, said in a statement announcing the boycott.

It's a difficult choice. For many years, Latino leaders have joined local politicians in encouraging illegal immigrants to participate in censuses. They have gone through all kinds of publicity campaigns to convey the message that illegal immigrants need not fear census workers and that federal law prohibits the Census Bureau from sharing information with immigration authorities.

Of course, these community leaders and politicians want everyone to be counted because census results will be used later to determine how billions of federal dollars are allocated among states, municipalities and even local community service organizations.

Can illegal immigrants gain from participating in the census? Of course! There is no question that there is a lot to be lost or gained from the results of the census. The higher the population of any particular area the more funding that area can expect from the federal government. Any area that is undercounted undoubtedly would lose its fair share of the federal budget.

For this reason, in the urban areas where most illegal immigrants reside, there have been many efforts to persuade illegal immigrants to cooperate with census workers. Some federally funded agencies that provide services to illegal immigrants could suffer budget cutbacks. And that's why suddenly asking illegal immigrants to boycott the census sounds a bit illogical.

But is it? Because census results also are used to determine political district lines and because some political careers may hang in the balance after those lines are redrawn, the census becomes a great weapon to hold politicians accountable.

Be on the lookout; the time has come again. Politicians will tell us they are working hard to ensure that minorities are counted accurately, but in fact, they will be trying to protect their seats.

There is no doubt that an effective illegal immigrant boycott of the census would hurt the immigrant communities and the municipalities where they live. But it would hurt the politicians even more! And that's why many Hispanic ministers have decided to ask their brethren to be ready to make some sacrifices and to give the politicians a deadline for keeping their immigration promises.

If the Obama administration and the Democratic majority in Congress keep delaying immigration reform, if they want illegal immigrants to come out of the shadows only for the census, they may be setting themselves up for a huge surprise. If several million people simply disappeared because illegal immigrants boycotted the census, the politicians would have no one to blame but themselves.

"Antes de contar, deben legalizar," the church leaders are saying in Spanish. It means "before they count, they should legalize," and for this census, with so many politicians in power who allegedly support immigration reform, it makes a lot of sense.

To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at http://www.creators.com/.

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May 10, 2009

CENSUS 2010: Confidentiality of Concern for Undocumented Hispanics

Washington, DC – Rev. Miguel Rivera, President of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) was interviewed today on National Public Radio's Tell Me More about the urgent need for Congress to develop and enact legislation to fix America’s broken immigration system. Rev. Rivera also reaffirmed the organizations decision to encourage undocumented members of its national network of 20,000 Hispanic churches to abstain from being counted in the upcoming census unless comprehensive immigration reform is achieved and its concern that use of Census data poses a risk to the undocumented community.

“Ever since 9/11, our government has taken swift and necessary steps to protect the security of our nation, however, partial fixes and a failure to reform the immigration system has resulted in painful collateral damage –hundreds of thousands of hard-working Latino families,” said Rev. Rivera.

The Census Bureau is currently working on efforts reach out to the most hard to count individuals, including an estimated 12 million undocumented people who have been seriously affected by workplace raids, detentions, deportations and family separation. The Latino evangelical church encourages active American citizens and permanent residents to participate in the Census; it will continue to urge undocumented members of the community to not allow themselves to be counted until comprehensive immigration reform has been achieved.

“CONLAMIC Pastors have a unique understanding of the fears and desperation that their undocumented church members live daily; the fear of being counted in America today is indeed warranted and the cost-benefit is not enough to risk the safety and privacy of undocumented families,” said Rev. Rivera.

Public records disclose that although the Census Bureau has generally been successful in resisting efforts by other government agencies to gain access to the micro-level information collected under the protection of Title 13, two acts by Congress have overruled it, including the 1942 Second Wars Powers Act and the Patriot Act of 2001. The parallels between section 1402 of the Second Wars Powers Act and section 508 of the Patriot Act are obvious. Both supersede the Census Bureau’s Title 13 pledge of statistical confidentiality and have permitted racial and ethnic based targeting (see for example, El Badry and Swanson, Habermann, 2005; and Seltzer, 2005).

1942 Second Wars Powers Act, section 1402, stated “any information or data contained therein, now or hereafter in the possession of the Department of Commerce, or any bureau or division thereof, may be made available by the Secretary of Commerce to any branch or agency of the Government.” This allowed the government to target Japanese American’s during World War II.

2001 Patriot Act, section 508, states “the Attorney General (or any Federal officer or employee, in a position not lower than an Assistant Attorney General, designated by the Attorney General) may submit a written application to a court of competent jurisdiction for an ex parte order requiring the Secretary to permit the Attorney General (or his designee) to— (A) collect reports, records, and information (including individually identifiable information) in the possession of the center that are relevant to an authorized investigation or prosecution of an offense listed in section 2332b (g)(5)(B) of title 18, United States Code...” This Act allowed the government to target Arab Americans in 2004 and currently still stands to endanger the civil liberties the undocumented people who reside in the United States.

“With a new administration and a new Congress, we were hopeful that there would be swift change, but no significant progress has been made toward a clear solution; comprehensive Immigration Reform is the only way to fix the problem,” said Rev. Rivera.

CONLAMIC pastors believe that the strength and future of this nation relies on the health and well-being of the Latino community, including the 12 million undocumented men, women, students, and children residing in the United States.

“A boycott of the census will empower the undocumented people to protect their families from the vulnerabilities created by current local, state and federal laws and an immigration system that has worked against them and is currently one of the most pressing issues for Latino’s in the United States - this is a fight about the people,” said Rev. Rivera.

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May 03, 2009

Census 2010 CONLAMIC Position Stands Firm: Immigration Reform First

New Brunswick, NJ - Yesterday the board of the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey (LLANJ), the largest organization in the state that consists of more than 400 Latino organizations voted unanimously to support the National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christan Leaders (CONLAMIC) decision to urge the undocumented members of their churches to boycott the 2010 Census. CONLAMIC leaders stand firm in seeking comprehensive immigration reform first.

"CONLAMIC Latino pastors have spoken on the Spanish radio airways in communities across the nation in interviews with Latino leaders that oppose our position, and the response from the undocumented people who call in to the radio shows is 99% in support of the boycott," said Reverend Miguel Rivera, President of CONLAMIC.

ICE has partnered with more than 63 counties and jurisdictions providing training to 597 officers in 34 states under the 287G program that empowers state and local law enforcement to target immigrants and detain and deport undocumented people over minor offenses such as traffic violations.

"Our government is pouring billions of dollars of taxpayer money on the demoralization of the least threatening members of our community when they should be focused on fixing the colossal problem of our broken immigration system," said Rev. Rivera.

"The true irresponsibility lies on our members of Congress and our government for their inaction that has deeply hurt hundreds of thousands of good Christian families in the United States whose hard work and labor is needed to make our economy strong," concluded Rev. Rivera.

CONLAMIC stands firm on their national campaign to urge the undocumented to not participate in the Census next year. The Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey's vote of confidence is a tribute to CONLAMIC leaders campaign to push for swift action on comprehensive immigration reform.

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