January 7, 2010 | The San Fernando Valley Sun | Original Article

City Officials and Leaders of Latino Groups Urge Participation in 2010 Census

Written by CNS and Alex Garcia Sun Staff   
Wednesday, 06 January 2010

Some Latino groups propose boycott


Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaks at an event to welcome the Census Burau's "Portrait of America Road Tour," which will send out vans to sporting events and underserved neighborhoods encouraging people to participate in this year's census.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined the leaders of two Latino groups in urging residents to take part in the 2010 census, saying Los Angeles lost out on $200 million because of under-counting on the last census a decade ago.

"We're engaged in an effort to make sure every Angeleno is counted," the mayor said, noting that accurate census figures help to determine where teachers are needed and where new roads should be built.

Standing in front of a U.S. Census 2010 van parked outside City Hall, Villaraigosa told reporters that more than 70,000 Los Angeles residents went uncounted in the 2000 census.

The mayor said the undercount was particularly a problem in immigrant communities, especially among "new Americans," and added that political representation and state and federal funding are at stake.

"Make sure you are counted," Villaraigosa said.

City Controller Wendy Greuel said the upcoming census-forms will arrive in the mail between March 15-17 - is "so critical for our region."

"It's about our future," she said. James Christy, regional director for the U.S. Census' Los Angeles office, said he wanted to assure those who fill out a census form that they "can be confident that this information is kept secure."

The 10-question form - which is considerably shorter than the form for the 2000 census-should take about 10 minutes to complete, he said.

Thomas Saenz, general counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, agreed that is vital to ensure that all residents are counted.

"This is a civil rights issue that matters," he said.

Arturo Vargas of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials said a bilingual census form will be provided to 13 million households, and that it doesn't matter what one's immigration status happens to be.

But not everyone supports participating in the census.

Since last year, the Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) has spearheaded a census boycott campaign unless the government approves an immigration reform.

"We urge members of Congress to pass a fair, decent, and humane comprehensive immigration reform bill. Though such efforts have been stalled, we must continue to preach and insist: legalization before enumeration. Only after this legislative task is accomplished can a complete and accurate count of all the American population be achievable," said Rev. Miguel Rivera, president of CONLAMIC in a press release earlier this week.

CONLAMIC, which claims to represent over 20,000 latino inner city and rural churches, aims to "draw notice to immigration reform through requesting undocumented Latinos to boycott the 2010 census".

"Without dramatic attention focused towards the issue now, there is no telling when significant immigration reform might materialize," stated Rivera.

"Current laws make life tremendously strenuous for undocumented immigrants, immigrants who want to participate in community and political life but are rendered incapable because of their citizenship status. Elected officials are only accountable for their voting constituencies and undocumented immigrants, frankly, cannot vote. It is excruciating to sit and watch these officials do little to assist, support or listen to immigration reform suggestions and demands," added Rivera.