LatinaLista — The U.S. Census is getting the nation ready for the 2010 Census. Yet, some Hispanic immigrant organizations are telling undocumented immigrants not to participate in the census. It’s bad advice that in the long run does more harm than good.
These days, the quickest way to polarize a conversation is to bring up immigration reform. It’s an issue that creates its own wall between opposing sides. The ironic thing is that it’s also an issue that has done more, than any other issue in recent memory, to unify the greater Latino community.
It’s an issue that mobilized Latino voters of all ages to go to the polls like never before. It has served as the rallying cry to draw millions of marchers to the streets. In fact, just about anything done in the name of immigration reform will draw a willing audience to help advance awareness of the issue.
So far, events organized around immigration reform have all been positive actions to show Washington that the whole Latino community is serious about wanting congressional action — until now.
Recently, the National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders released a statement urging undocumented immigrants not to fill out the upcoming Census forms to be used in the 2010 Census unless Congress passes “genuine immigration reform.”
The rationale behind the call-to-inaction is that if everyone fills out the forms then the documented upswing in the Latino population will be used against local communities. They fear without an approved immigration reform measure in place, census results will lead to an increase in raids and taking people into deportation proceedings.
It’s a misguided rationale that only serves as being counterproductive to the gains accomplished thus far in this ongoing battle. At the same time, it’s planting an unnecessary fear in the minds of undocumented immigrants and their families.
The coalition’s request implies that U.S. Census workers are just another tool of the Department of Homeland Security when it comes to immigration enforcement. They’re not.
As everyone knows, there is no box to check to say if someone is in the country legally or not. None of the answers can be shared with any other government entity and all answers are confidential.
Any kind of stepped up enforcement usually results more from the physical evidence of seeing a demographic change in a particular community rather than from results of a survey about a year old when the information is finally disseminated.
For such an esteemed organization, that claims to represent 20,000 evangelical churches in 34 states, the coalition’s directive does a disservice to both undocumented and legal Latino residents.
The main goal of any immigration reform measure is to bring the undocumented out of the proverbial shadows. The U.S. Census accomplishes this by allowing them, for the first time, to have an official voice. It is an anonymous voice but it’s a voice nonetheless that gives them an equal opportunity to be counted and their presence no longer ignored.
In turn, their participation counts towards creating a realistic picture of today’s Latino community. No longer would researchers or analysts have to rely on anecdotal information regarding the number of Latinos living in the country.
It’s information that benefits each local Latino community as well. A more accurate count translates into more federal dollars that pay for services that everyone needs and uses. Politically, it expands representation in the House of Representatives. More people means greater opportunities to elect budding Latino/a leaders.
While the fear that the extra money allotted a particular community based on the census results will only go to hire more police officers who will racially profile and/or act as immigration enforcement officers, there’s exists signs that this administration has a different approach to enforcing immigration policy that doesn’t include terrorizing working people and their families.
So far, Latino citizens have stood beside their undocumented hermanos/as and marched with them and cast their votes with them in mind. It’s now time for the undocumented to take advantage of the one opportunity to return the favor and stand up to be counted.