Lawmaker Wants Immigration Raids Suspended to Ensure Census Accuracy

By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor

As census workers hit the streets across the country to start verifying addresses in preparation for next year’s head count, the chair of a key House subcommittee is urging the government to relax enforcement of immigration laws to ensure that minorities and the undocumented are not undercounted on April 1, 2010.

Immigration restrictionists and conservatives are incensed at the Census Bureau’s efforts to count “all illegal aliens in 2010.”

The 2010 Census is becoming yet another battleground in the immigration reform wars.

U.S. Rep. William Clay (D.-Mo.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census and National Archives, “said he plans to ask the Obama administration to suspend immigration raids over the next year,” Fox News reported. “He wants the raids put on hold so illegal immigrants don’t worry that sharing accurate information with Census workers could somehow expose them to punishment, even deportation.”

Clay said in a recent news release that the last Census “missed 3 million Americans. Many of them were African American or Hispanic, most were poor, and all of them deserved to be counted.

“…The Census is really about three things: information, federal funding, and proper political representation,” Clay added. “When we miss any American, we deprive his or her community of all three of those precious resources. Every American counts, and every American deserves to be counted.”

As we reported previously, the Census Bureau has already started reaching out to immigrant communities to ensure an accurate count. The acting director of the Census Bureau, Thomas Mesenbourg, told conservative news site that the agency intends to count “every (U.S.) resident whether they’re documented, undocumented, whether they are citizens or non-citizens.”

This means,” wrote’s Nicholas Ballasy, “that a state harboring more illegal aliens can gain more House seats as long as the Census Bureau finds the illegal aliens and counts them. This also means that the illegal alien population resident in the United States during a census year has the potential to alter the regional and philosophical balance of power in Congress.”

The growing confrontation will fall in the lap of Robert M. Groves, who the White House announced last week is its choice to fill the position of census director. Groves’ selection, according to Time, “has sent Republicans scrambling to the ramparts,” because he is seen as favoring statistical methods that could benefit Democrats.

Groves is expected to win Senate confirmation.

“(I)f confirmed, (Groves) has to hit the ground running to deal with a slew of issues,” New York Spanish-language newspaper El Diario/La Prensa said in an editorial urging the Obama Administration to protect the census so that Latinos and other groups are not undercounted. “The count will be further complicated by the displacement triggered by the foreclosure crisis,” the newspaper said.

The editorial added,

…an environment in which immigrant families are in fear of raids and deportation threatens to undermine an accurate representation of communities throughout the country.

(…) During the 2000 census, large-scaled immigration raids were paused so that people would not be fearful of responding to the census. Congressman William Macy Clay has said he will push for the same policy.

The Census Bureau requested a halt a couple of years ago but the Bush administration rejected that request. Obama can, and should, depart from that shortsighted decision.

2000 was not the first year that raids were halted to help the Census. According to Fox News, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D.-Texas) was a Border Patrol officer during the 1990 Census “when the orders came down to suspend some enforcement efforts.”

“It distorts the count because people might be apprehensive about answering the door, or reporting accurately how many people are living in a house or residence or an apartment, or those kinds of things — at least that was the rationale,” Reyes said.

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AboutDiego Graglia
Diego Graglia is a bilingual multimedia journalist who has worked at major media outlets in the U.S. and Latin America. He is currently the editor-in-chief at Expansion, Meixco’s leading business magazine.