Advocates want illegal immigrants and their supporters to boycott the 2010 Census in protest of the government’s impasse on immigration reform legislation, according to a report by Boston.com.
Because census figures are used to calculate federal funding to cities and towns, state officials and pro-immigrant groups are warning that a large-scale boycott could force Massachusetts to cut services such as school lunch programs and highway construction – furthermore enhancing its chances of losing a seat in Congress.
But proponents argue the boycott will pressure politicians to get serious about a comprehensive reworking of the nation’s immigration system, providing a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants.
“Legalize us before you count us,’’ Fausto da Rocha, a Brazilian immigrant leader in Boston said. “Politics is about power and money, and by not giving your information, you’ll be taking away money and power from the politicians.’’
The Washington-based National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders is behind the proposed boycott. The group represents 20,000 churches nationwide, including 300 in Massachusetts.
According to the Boston.com report, the group is strongly opposed by a number of advocacy groups, including the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the Brazilian Immigrant Center.
Reactions to the proposed boycott have been swift and pointed: Eliseo Medina, the SEIU’s national executive vice president, called the boycott “irresponsible.’’ A boycott would put the state at risk politically, said Secretary of State William F. Galvin. Because of a population shift to the South and West, he noted, Massachusetts is at risk of losing one of its 10 congressional districts. People who hide from the census in protest could cost the state about $1,755 apiece, said Brian McNiff , spokesman for the Massachusetts secretary of state. “It’s always disappointing to hear that any individual or organization would suggest to someone not to participate in the census when there’s so much at stake,’’ said Kathleen Ludgate, regional director for the census in Boston. “We hope that people will participate in the census so we’ll have our fair share in Boston and throughout the state.’’
Massachusetts state officials lament that the fine for failure to register for the census is only $100.
Furthermore, the Census Bureau has generally not pursued violators, according to the Boston.com report.
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