Student groups stress

St. John’s Phi Iota Alpha and Lambda Pi Chi chapters sponsored an event recently promoting census participation by undocumented immigrants to allow the legislation of the act.

“If people speak up for themselves as undocumented immigrants, this issue can be taken care of,” said Shamil Rodriguez, campaign field director for Joseph Crawley, a U.S. Congressman.

“Latinos have to confront this issue,” he added. “We need to find students to help us so we can spread the importance of participation in the census.”

Rodriguez explained that filling out the census will not lead to criminal prosecution against undocumented immigrants.

“Title 13 of the U.S. code protects information given by participants of the census from law enforcement entities or other law enforcement agencies,” he said.

Walter Rosales, member of Phi Iota Alpha supported the goal of the event, saying that immigrants should have “just as much opportunity to receive an education like anyone else.”

“By giving Latinos citizenship so that they can attend college, their incomes can increase- allowing the state to tax at higher brackets which would eventually stimulate the economy,” he said.

According to its web site, the U.S. Census Bureau utilizes its questionnaire to determine necessary hospital locations, housing developments, and other community facilities. The information provided is also used for decision making on all levels of government to allocate $400 billion throughout states.

“It’s an important issue. Undocumented immigrants should have input in the census so that there aren’t any discrepancies,” said Daniel Santos, a student who attended the event.

Census questionnaires will be mailed to homes in March 2010.

Households that do not respond are visited by census takers who administer the questionnaires personally.

“Undocumented or not, this issue concerns everyone in the country,” said Onias Pacheco, partnership specialist of the 2010 U.S. Census.

“If we don’t count correctly, false information will be used for city planning of expenses.”

The Latino organizations have joined 68 universities in more than 23 states to advocate legislation for the newly introduced Dream Act. If passed, the act would annually allow more than 65,000 undocumented high school graduates permanent residency while attending college.