A Latino Christian group calling on illegal immigrants to boycott the Census charges the agency with giving information to American surveillance agencies during World War II to identify people of Japanese ancestry.
It’s one of the more controversial accusations being made by the D.C.-based National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, which represents about 16,000 churches.
Read the Observer's story about the boycott, here.
Miguel Rivera, president of the organization, says the Census’s promises of confidentiality should not be trusted. He cites a Fordham University study that reports the Census bureau gave a list of everyone with Japanese ancestry to the Treasury Department in 1943.
According to William Seltzer, a senior research scholar in Fordham’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology, the data from the 1940 census, collected under a pledge of confidentiality, was handed over in seven days. Researchers say the bureau also disclosed information about others to the FBI as well as information about businesses and organizations to war planning agencies, such as the Office of Emergency Management.
Whether the Census provided information on Japanese Americans during World War II has been a highly contested matter for decades, Seltzer says. The controversy was reignited in 2004 when it was reported that the Census Bureau had provided zip-code data from the 2000 census about Arab-Americans to the Department of Homeland Security.
Census spokesman Raul Cisneros acknowledged to the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the Second War Powers Act in 1942 did authorize the Department of Commerce to make certain information available for the purposes of national defense. But he said those laws have been changed.
“Current law . . . explicitly forbids the Census Bureau from disclosing information," he said. "With regards to claims that the government used information to target Arab groups after 9/11, this particular situation involved disclosing information that was already fully available to the public.”
We’re not sure the fact that the Census pulled all that public information together and then handed it over eases anybody’s anxiety.
What do you think?