January 26, 2010 | Kansas City Star | Original Article

Should Latinos boycott U.S. census? Ay Dios mio!

Surely an appropriate dicho exists for the English language expression: “Cut off your nose to spite your face.”

Dichos are Spanish language phrasings for a homespun bit of wisdom. The kind of utterances a mother would let loose to recalibrate her child’s wayward thoughts.

Such a quick-witted reply would be helpful to unleash on a group of Latino activists who apparently have more reach than sense.

So far, sane voices aren’t having much luck convincing this small but fervent group advising undocumented Latino immigrants not to cooperate with the U.S. census.

That’s right. While other demographics are vying for their piece of congressional representation, $400 billion in federal dollars and basically a chance to be recognized, these fools are condoning the opposite.

Worse, they use God to impart their message.

The National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, said to represent 20,000 churches in 34 states, has been preaching a lack of cooperation with the U.S. census mostly through Spanish-language radio.

Theirs is a convoluted argument filled with conspiracy theory and just plain lack of critical thinking skills.

The Rev. Miguel Rivera, the Puerto Rica-born, D.C.-based coalition’s chairman and founder, maintains that illegal immigrants shouldn’t allow themselves to be counted until they get legal status.

Rivera believes politicians gain more from the illegal immigrants than they offer in the form of immigration reform. Yes, revising the nation’s laws to deal effectively with the 12 million illegal immigrants is an issue Congress has sidestepped for far too long.

But Rivera’s missing the critical point that hiding will make the immigrants’ concerns even less understood. And it will harm the school districts, police departments and other entities that depend on an accurate count for funding that ultimately helps those very immigrants.

Rivera is also fond of spreading fears that the government could potentially use the information to round up immigrants for deportation. That’s an old fear that unfortunately still plays loud, despite laws about the census privacy.

To his critics, Rivera said in an NPR interview: “There are those who argue this call for a census boycott will do more harm than good. I challenge them to relate to the pain and suffering of broken homes, the incarceration of mothers with their children, or the deportation of a pastor who has established a proven and beneficial ministry for the spiritual needs of a whole community. What is it like to feel exiled? To feel cast away, ignored and powerless?”

Really want to know, Señor Rivera? You are in fast pursuit of that end with this dictate.

Likely smirking in the background of this drama are those who argue that illegal immigrants don’t deserve to be counted anyway. Again, that stand is not helpful because census figures are used for far more than apportioning the congressional seats.

Such wishful thinking, pretending people don’t exist, doesn’t alleviate the issues that arise because they are present.

Minorities have long been undercounted in the census. And a new study by the Pew Research Center found that one in five people overall may shy away from participating in the census.

Illegal immigrants have enough to worry about in their day-to-day existence. What they don’t need are Spanish-speaking brethren advising them against their own interests.

But enough arguing with fools.

The most pertinent Spanish-language phrasing, to borrow from one of the many efforts geared toward encouraging an accurate count of Latinos is “Ya Es Hora; Hagase Contar”— “It’s Time; Make Yourselves Count.”

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send e-mail to msanchez@kcstar.com.