Two prominent Hispanic Christian organizations are divided on whether Latinos should participate in the 2010 U.S. census, while U.S. Catholic bishops say it's in everyone's "best interest to be counted."

The National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) is urging undocumented members of its churches to boycott the census until comprehensive immigration reform is signed into law. The group wants legislation enacted that provides a way for some 12 million undocumented persons to be legalized.

"Our church leaders have witnessed misuse of otherwise benign census population data by state and local public officials in their efforts to pass and enact laws that assist in the perpetration of civil rights violations and abuses against undocumented workers and families,"said the Rev. Miguel Rivera, chairman of CONLAMIC, in an April 19 statement.

But the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) said "Latinos, regardless of faith or legal status," should take part in the census.

"For our communities, the benefits of participating in the census are essential to accurate representation, allocation of resources and to gauge how our community continues to grow," said the Rev. Wilfredo De Jesus, vice president of social justice for the NHCLC, in an April 23 statement.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops weighed in on the issue on April 27, saying it is partnering with the U.S. Census Bureau to encourage participation, including in communities traditionally difficult to count.

"It is in peoples' best interest to be counted," said the Rev. Allan F. Deck, executive director of the bishops' cultural diversity department. "This is how our country makes decisions about allocation of resources and local representation, regardless race or immigration status."

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