Halt to Gov’t Raids Not an Option to Boost Census

Hope Yen, Contra Costa Times (California), October 1, 2009

With the 2010 census six months away, the Commerce Department said Thursday it won’t seek a halt to immigration raids as it did in the previous census in hopes of improving participation in hard-to-count communities.

In a statement, the department said it is committed to an accurate count of U.S. residents, including both legal and illegal immigrants. Spokesman Nick Kimball said officials will not ask the Homeland Security Department to stop large-scale immigration raids during the high stakes count that begins April 1.

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It remained unclear what Commerce’s stance might have on the likelihood of immigration raids next year. In recent months, the government has said it was seeking to shift enforcement efforts more toward criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants as well as cases in which an illegal immigrant may pose a safety threat to the community.

The Commerce statement comes as the Census Bureau enters the final stretch of preparations for the decennial count, which is used to apportion House seats and distribute nearly $450 billion in federal aid. With an effort to overhaul U.S. immigration laws expected to take place sometime next year, Census Director Robert Groves has said he’s particularly worried that tensions over immigration will deter people from participating in the count.

Rev. Miguel Rivera, chairman of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, has been urging Hispanics to boycott the census until there is action on an immigration overhaul.

On Thursday, a coalition of Latino groups, including Univision and the National Coalition, announced a grass-roots campaign to boost participation in their communities and to resist calls to boycott the census. The groups said that getting an accurate count of the fast-growing Latino community is the best way to push change.

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