What does Michelle Bachmann have in common with a group that represents illegal immigrants? They both want to boycott next year’s U.S. Census.
Bachmann and the Rev. Miguel Rivera, however, have very different reasons for opposing the census. Minnesota’s 6th District Republican congresswoman has stated that she’ll provide only basic information about the size of her household, because she considers the other questions “very personal.” She’s also criticized ACORN’s involvement and complained (erroneously) that the census doesn’t ask about citizenship.
Rivera, on the other hand, who heads the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) in Washington, D.C., is urging undocumented immigrants to refuse to participate in the census until there is comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship.
“It’s immoral to have our people come out of the shadows just for the purpose of being counted and, then after, they have to go back to the same shadows,” Rivera said.
Other immigrant advocates have called the campaign irresponsible.
John Keller, executive director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, says boycotting the census is self-defeating. “For anybody,” he says, “much less for those who depend on legislative change.” Keller also wants comprehensive immigration reform, but he doesn’t see how a census boycott will make that any more likely.
Furthermore, census data is used to set electoral districts and allocate federal funds. If not everyone is counted, Keller says, Minnesota is in danger of losing a representative — and funding for public services.
Rivera dismisses these arguments. Aside from education, he says, “There’s no such a thing as services for undocumented immigrants. Let’s not kid ourselves.”
On the issue of congressional representation, Rivera says that an accurate counting of immigrants who can’t vote will lead to the creation of “ghost electoral districts” where a small minority will hold disproportionate power. In practice, he says, that often leads to anti-immigrant laws and ordinances, “especially in rural areas.”
CONLAMIC is a national group, but Rivera says some churches in Grand Rapids, Minn., are participating in the boycott. MinnPost was unable to get in touch with any them by deadline.
Centro Campesino, an Owatonna-based group focusing on the rights of migrant farm workers and rural Latinos, is not supporting the boycott. Federico Rivera, who works for the center on health projects, said he understands where CONLAMIC is coming from, but he says Centro Campesino encourages its members to be active participants in their communities, which includes the census.
“We want to know how many of us are here, how many of us there are,” he said, speaking in Spanish. “It’s important that we come out of the shadows.”