The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 74/No. 13      April 5, 2010

Workers justifiably
wary of U.S. Census
(front page)
Starting April 1, U.S. Census Bureau workers will be knocking on doors demanding that forms be filled out providing the government with personal information on every individual residing throughout the country.

The government is hiring 1.2 million temporary workers, paying $20 an hour, to conduct this operation over the next several months, twice as many as were hired for the 2000 census.

Federal authorities anticipate this will somewhat lower the official unemployment rate, currently at 9.7 percent, some 14.9 million workers. With the unemployment rate higher than during the previous census, “the effect of large changes in temporary 2010 census employment on the unemployment rate may be more noticeable in 2010,” noted the Commerce Department.

Forms were mailed out to 120 million households in mid-March. Stamped on each envelope was “Your Response is Required by Law.” Census workers will be attempting to contact all individuals who haven’t returned the form. The government threatens fines of $100 if you don’t complete it. If you put information on it the government considers incorrect you could be fined $500.

With increased government intrusions into the right to privacy, a growing number of workers, including immigrant workers and those without government-approved work papers, shy away from filling out the census forms.

In February President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress renewed the Patriot Act, which greatly expanded the powers of the FBI and other intelligence agencies to conduct spying and disruption operations and carry out arbitrary searches and seizures, as well as jail immigrants virtually indefinitely without charges.

In an acknowledgement that working people regard with suspicion the census takers who knock on doors and collect information for the government, the Obama administration sent a letter to Congress stating that its “legal position” is that census data cannot be disclosed under the Patriot Act. “The government has previously given legal assurance the information will not be used for immigration enforcement,” reported Associated Press.

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg campaigned around this point at a census promotion meeting at Flushing International High School March 16. “If a family member has concerns about immigration records, tell them not to worry,” he said, “filling out the census form will not get anyone in trouble.” In sections of Queens, New York, where immigrants from many nations live, participation in the 2000 census was less than 40 percent.

Democratic Party politicians are a big part of the campaign urging people to fill out the census forms. Reporting on a press conference by U.S. senator Kirsten Gillibrand and New York secretary of state Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, the Daily News claimed that “the city lost out on hundreds of millions of dollars in federal and state funding over the past decade because only 55 percent of New York City residents mailed in 2000 Census forms.”

“Invisible people do not count in this country,” Cortés-Vázquez said. “Invisible people do not have a voice.”

While putting census workers on the government payroll for a few months, the Obama administration has offered no serious program to provide jobs to the millions of unemployed, 40 percent of whom have been without work for at least six months. Instead, the recent “jobs bill” signed by the president March 18 focuses on providing tax breaks to businesses.

While some temporary workers are being added on by the federal government, state and local governments have stepped up job cuts. Employment has declined for each of the past eight months, with more to come.

Black workers are facing some of the highest unemployment rates. According to a recent report from Congress’s Joint Economic Committee, “one in four African Americans face underemployment or unemployment” and face “longer stretches of unemployment than the general population.”  
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