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Counting Controversy

Hispanic evangelical leaders debate participation in 2010 U.S. Census.

When 1,500 leaders and pastors gather October 1 and 2 for the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders' (CONLAMIC) conference in Washington, D.C., boycotting the 2010 U.S. Census will top their agenda.

Unless Congress advances immigration reform during September, CONLAMIC chairman Miguel Rivera plans to expand last April's call for undocumented immigrants to shun the census to all Latinos nationwide.

"When we started this action, our main moral position was, 'We take care of our brethren,'" said Rivera, a pastor whose organization claims nearly 22,000 evangelical churches—with an estimated 38 percent of members undocumented.

Though most U.S. Hispanics agree that immigration reform is urgently needed, support for the boycott appears weak. Two other national Hispanic Christian groups oppose it. They cite the census' impact on distribution of federal aid, which affects many Latino communities.

"Miguel has done great work on immigration, but I disagree totally with him on strategy," said Luis Cortes Jr., pastor and president of Esperanza, a 12,000-member evangelical network that supported the census at its National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast in June. "It breaks the law and asks people who are undocumented to compound that by breaking another law."

Others agree. Jesse Miranda, executive director of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference—which represents 25,000 evangelical churches—sees participation in the census as a longstanding civic responsibility.

"We're simply encouraging our churches to take part," Miranda said. "It's more an issue of education than a debate. As Christians, we want to comply with things we feel are right and proper."

Though Rivera is aware that census data are ...

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Counting Controversy
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