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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