By Anna Vega

Every 10 years, the United States counts all persons residing in the nation, this is the census. The next census is in 2010. This count is very important not only for each state and city, but for the entire Hispanic population of this nation.

Nationally, for the first time, the census will send out forms in Spanish to approximately 13 million households in areas with a high concentration of Hispanics.

There is a sense of despair and frustration among some civil right leaders for immigrants because they hear that many Hispanics, especially undocumented people, will refuse to fill out the form for fear of having their information shared with the Federal Immigration Agency.

It is important to know that although the census is part of a federal agency, the agency guarantees that the census protects the confidentiality of all the information given by each person that fills out the census form. The information cannot be shared with any agency, even if it is a federal agency.

Besides the fear of our fellow immigrants, a group of evangelical ministers has planned a boycott intended especially for undocumented persons. The organization that is spearheading the boycott is the National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders. This group claims to represent some 20,000 evangelical churches in 34 states. They’ve urged people not to be counted by the census as a way to force the United States Congress to pass a “genuine immigration reform.”

Mainstream agencies as well as organizations and the media serving the Hispanic community are backing the census count because the influence and negotiating strength the Hispanic population has seen in recent years is due in large part to a more accurate count of Hispanics in the previous census.

Currently, with estimates of approximately 50 million Hispanics in the United States , it more crucial than ever to invite an accurate count.

Considering everything we’ve heard from both sides of this issue, the Office of Vicar for Hispanic Catholics strongly recommends that you urge your parishioners to fill out the forms. In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau has offered to bring forms to churches and provide a box to collect these forms after completion. Much depends on the support that our churches give to this campaign.

Be counted!

For more information, please call the Office for Hispanic Catholics at 215-667-2820.

Anna Vega is the director of the Office for Hispanic Catholics of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.