Immigration concerns shadow upcoming census count

In just one short year, the U.S. Census Bureau will begin the momentous task of counting every single person in the United States. But civil rights advocates are worried that many Latinos and immigrants will not be tallied due to distrust and fear sparked by increased immigration enforcement in the last 10 years. Now, an unprecedented media campaign is being launched in Colorado and other states to encourage Latinos to be counted.

On a conference call Wednesday hosted by the national Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), speakers detailed numerous problems that could occur with the 2010 census, a decennial count that determines the distribution of political power by establishing federal spending guidelines per state and congressional districts for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Arturo Vargas, executive director of the education fund of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), noted that increased immigration enforcement in the last decade has made Latinos — both documented and undocumented — wary of census-takers and government workers.

There are also individuals “living in non-traditional circumstances,” according to Wade Henderson of the LCCR. “You have group quarters, you’ve got migrant farm workers that are living in dormitories.”

Part of the solution will lie in the largest civic campaign to date to incorporate Latinos into the political process, according to Vargas. The campaign, entitled “Ya es hora! Hagase contar!” (“It’s time! Make yourself count!”) has already featured Spanish-language ads on Univision and Telemundo TV stations in Colorado. Spots are being sponsored through a partnership between Spanish media companies and groups like NALEO.

In the 2000 census, 12.5 percent of Latinos were reported to have made up the nation’s population. The number in Colorado was 17 percent at that time.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.

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