Wednesday, March 10, 2010
From the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights:
Over 200 organizations appeal to President Obama and the Department of Homeland Security to Suspend Immigration Enforcement Activities for Census 2010
Encouraging hard-to-count populations to participate in the Census means reducing the climate of fear and distrust in immigrant communities
Oakland, CA: As Census 2010 gears up to count all residents in the United States, immigrants are at risk of being undercounted due to the climate of fear and distrust stemming from immigration raids and other enforcement actions. With Census forms due to arrive in all households in the coming week, more than 200 concerned organizations nationwide have joined with the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights to ask President Obama and Secretary Janet Napolitano to halt enforcement activities for the Census. Not only are many immigrants not familiar with the Census, but many households will be reluctant to return their Census forms or talk with outreach workers for fear of detection if they or someone in their home is undocumented.
The letter asks the Administration to "follow precedent" to suspend enforcement activities, including the "287g" program that facilitates local police involvement in immigration enforcement. In 1990 and 2000, steps were taken to suspend numerous enforcement actions. However, with the peak activities for the Census just around the corner, the Administration has not yet announced any significant action.
While the purpose of the census is to count everyone residing in the United States, immigrants, along with a number of other population groups, have been historically undercounted. However, with the distribution of some $400 billion in federal funds at stake to support infrastructure and services based on population, an inaccurate count of immigrants will have an impact on all areas of the country.
The letter cites more than a dozen immigration enforcement programs. " As you know, enforcement activities have reached an unprecedented breadth and depth, resulting in higher numbers of detentions and deportations than even the past Administration, and utilizing strategies that are less visible than raids but well known and feared in immigrant communities throughout the country."
According to NNIRR Executive Director Catherine Tactaquin, "While many community-based organizations are working to support the Census effort, we are genuinely concerned that the climate of fear will seriously impact the census form return rate of immigrant households -- and if people do not return the form, they will be reluctant to open the door to a follow-up visit from a Census worker." She continued, "We believe it is the right of every person to be counted in the Census, but we really need the leadership of the Administration right now to make a difference in the success of the Census among our diverse immigrant populations."
Despite the benefits being counted brings to communities, immigrants are among several communities known to be significantly undercounted by the Census; in New York City, heavily-immigrant areas have had less than a 40 percent census response rate, compared to the citywide average response of 65 percent.
The letter also notes that, "Numerous officials have themselves expressed grave concerns about the challenges faced in convincing immigrants to participate due to persistent enforcement activity by the same government now seeking their information. Immigrants have raised doubts about the confidentiality of the Census. While officials have repeatedly stated that the information obtained will not be shared with other departments, immigrants well recall similar assurances about the Social Security Administration and Internal Revenue Service; today, the data obtained from these agencies has provided the fuel for many of this Administration's enforcement operations. "
For a copy of the full letter to President Obama and DHS, please go to: www.nnirr.org/resources/docs/CensusLetterFinal3.9.103.pdf
For more detailed information and resources please go to NNIRR's We ALL Count - Census 2010 Campaign www.nnirr.org