D.C. Leader Calls on Illegal Immigrants to Fill Out Census for Taxpayer-Funded Resources

April 6, 2010 - 2:56 PM
The executive director of a D.C. Latino community organization at a rally Thursday called on Hispanics, regardless of their immigration status, to participate in the 2010 Census, adding that doing so will expand their access to $400 billion in government-funded "resources."

Supporters gather in Union Park for a rally calling for the legalization of more than 12 million undocumented immigrant workers Friday, May 1, 2009, in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

(CNSNews.com) – The executive director of a D.C. Latino community organization at a rally Thursday called on Hispanics, regardless of their immigration status, to participate in the 2010 Census, adding that doing so will expand their access to $400 billion in government-funded “resources.”  
 
“To the Hispanic community, the reality is that, the Census, participating in the Census is very important,” said Rodrigo Leiva in Spanish while speaking at a rally focused on urging the American public to participate in the decennial tabulation by the Census Bureau.
 
Leiva is the executive director of the Latino Federation of Greater Washington, a non-profit membership organization that self-designates as a group that “works to empower the Latino community through advocacy, research and capacity-building resources.” 
 
“It’s about resources. It’s about a tremendous importance of billions of dollars. We have to participate. Please participate,” continued Leiva. “There is no fear about immigration being an issue. This is a totally separate organization. The answers you provide are totally confidential. It’s very critical for our future.”
 
Before his remarks in Spanish, Leiva addressed the rally attendees in English without mentioning anything about the issue of immigration as he used “additional” government-funded resources as an incentive for Hispanics to fill out their Census forms. 
 
“Our growth and our flourishing will not equate to having additional resources if we don’t participate in the Census,” Leiva said. “So, it’s so critical that we all participate and be counted.
 
“This is about an impact that it can have for the next 10 years,” explained Leiva. "We’re talking about resources. We’re talking about political representation. We’re talking about health care. We’re talking about education. We’re talking about things that are vital to the Latino community.”
 
The Census rally took place on April 1, the National Census Day, which is a reference point for the American population to mail back their 10 question Census form.
 
Leiva spoke along with a group of federal government officials comprised of D.C. Delegate Eleanor Norton (D); Dr. Nancy Potok, deputy undersecretary for economic affairs at the Department of Commerce, which runs the Census Bureau; and Robert Groves, Census Bureau director.
 
Other speakers at the event included D.C. Councilmember Michael Brown (At-Large), Maudine Cooper, president of Greater Washington Urban League, a D.C. community organization, and the D.C. Mayor’s Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs Executive Director Soohyun Koo.
 
Leiva indicated that given that the undocumented Hispanic immigrants pay taxes, they should be able to benefit from government-funded “resources” as other taxpayers do.  
 
“They do pay taxes,” Leiva told CNSNews.com after the event. “Anytime they’re buying something at the store they’re paying taxes.”
 
He later added, “Even though they don’t have an immigration status, they are filing for taxes.”
 
Brown, the D.C. councilman who spoke at the event, echoed Leiva’s comments on encouraging the Latino community to get counted in the Census regardless of their immigration status. He referred to the notion that information gathered from the Census forms will be used to track down undocumented workers as a “myth.”
 
“No one will come after you for any immigration issues,” said Brown.
 
Rather than being about a respondent’s immigration status, the count is conducted “to make sure we can count how many people we have using city services in this city,” added Brown. 
 
All of the speakers emphasized that the amount of “federal resources” a district gets is calculated based on the number of inhabitants in that region. More people amounts to more money.
 
Among other things Census data is used “to distribute more than $400 billion federal dollars annually to state, local, and tribal governments,” according to an April 1 press release that highlighted points made by the speakers during the rally. 
 
“Every time one of us gets counted, more federal resources come into our city,” said Brown. 
 
However, Norton pointed out that communities and jurisdictions will not be able to reap the full benefits that come with having a big population if their escalating Hispanic community continues to be ignored in the Census count.
 
“The Hispanic population in America is blooming,” said Norton, “and bourgeoning and with all of those glorious numbers, it simply will not matter to that community and to the jurisdictions where they live if all that flowering of the wonderful diverse Hispanic community is still undercounted.”  
 
Norton highlighted that everyone needs to be counted “regardless of race, background or anything else you adhere to.” Such enumeration is mandated under Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution.
 
Failing to fill out your form is a violation of law and could result in courts imposing a $5,000 fine, something that the Census has said will be used as a desperate resort.
 
In addition, “For every one percent increase in the mail back response rate, the Census Bureau saves $85 million dollars in enumeration costs,” the U.S. Census Bureau stated in an April 1 press release.  
 
“If everyone across the nation mailed back their form, taxpayers could reduce the cost of taking the census by $1.5 billion,” added the Census.


This year for the first time the Census will send a replacement form to those who do not mail in the questionnaire that was initially sent. A portion of the hard-to-count areas will automatically receive a second form, which critics say could result in double counting.
 
If the respondent does not mail back either the initial form or the replacement one, a person, an individual working under the Census’ Nor-Response Follow-Up operation, their largest one, will physically go to the household.
 
The data that the U.S. Census gives birth to is used to appropriate seats in the House of Representatives and on a yearly basis disburse the $400 billion in federal funds made available for the state, local, and tribe.
 
Leiva Transcripts:
 
English: Our growth and our flourishing will not equate to having additional resources if we don’t participate in the Census. So it’s so critical that we all participate and be counted. This is about resources. This about an impact it can have over the next 10 years. We’re talking about resources. We’re talking about political representation. We’re talking about health care. We’re talking about education. We’re talking about things that are vital to the Latino community and I just wanted just with your forbearance to say a few words in Spanish for my Latino community.
 
Spanish: To the Hispanic community, the reality is that, the Census, participating in the Census is very important. It’s about resources. It’s about a tremendous importance of billions of dollars.  We have to participate. Please participate,” continued Leiva. “There is no fear about immigration being an issue. This is a totally separate organization. The answers you provide are totally confidential. It’s very critical for our future. Please participate in the Census. Thank you.