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Vol. 74/No. 15      April 19, 2010

Workers distrust
census data collection
(front page)
Many capitalist politicians are campaigning hard to convince working people to participate in the 2010 Census, with assurances the information collected will be kept private. Despite an unprecedented amount of resources devoted to this year’s census, only about half of the forms mailed out were returned by the April 1 deadline.

Given the Census Bureau’s record, the reluctance of working people to give their personal information to the federal government is not surprising.

Census data from 1940 was central in the U.S. government’s herding of 110,000 Japanese Americans into concentration camps during the second imperialist world war. Acting under the Second War Powers Act, the bureau provided other government agencies with a list that included names, addresses, and data on the age, sex, citizenship status, and occupation of many Japanese Americans.

When reports of the bureau’s actions were publicly confirmed in 2007, Christa Jones of the agency’s policy office told USA Today, “The disclosure of the names was legal at that time.” She claimed “the law is very different today.”

However, as recently as 2002, acting under the Patriot Act, the bureau sent lists of ZIP codes with high concentrations of Arab residents to the Department of Homeland Security. The department claimed it wanted the information to make better airport signs.

During the first imperialist world war, census data was given to the Justice Department to help round up those who dodged the draft. A few years later, the same was done during the 1919 Palmer Raids, where the FBI deported hundreds of immigrants in an anti-communist witch-hunt.  
Liberals, reformists push census
The 2010 census form includes questions like how many people live at your residence, whether you sometimes stay somewhere else, what your phone number is, and other personal matters. Many liberal politicians and their supporters argue that the census will allow accurate statistical representation of oppressed nationalities, immigrants, and the lowest-income workers, ensuring that an appropriate amount of government funding is disbursed to their communities. According to Count on Change 2010, a census advocacy group, some $435 billion in federal funds are distributed based on census data.

Mindful of the fact that many who don’t have papers to work legally in the United States avoid giving out their names and addresses, capitalist politicians have enlisted groups with ties to the fight for immigrant rights. The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights urges “immigrant communities throughout the country to stand up and be counted in the upcoming Census 2010.”

Some of the bourgeois press, like the New York Times, suggest that working people just can’t “understand” the advantages of participating in the census. A front-page photo box in the April 1 Times laments that the Mississippi Delta region contains some of the most undercounted census tracts in the state. “Plagued by poverty and illiteracy, many Delta residents harbor a deep distrust of census takers,” the caption reads. “Community groups have worked hard to dispel skepticism… . But it is still an uphill struggle.”

Among the most enthusiastic census cheerleaders is the People’s World, a Web site that expresses the views of the U.S. Communist Party. It published an article January 5 titled “Feds, civil rights groups gear up for 2010 Census.” It praises the government for “making an extra effort to count those who have traditionally been hard to count: racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants and the poor.”

The article makes the point that census data determines how congressional representation is divided up, something important for the Democratic Party candidates the CP is likely to support. Capitalist politicians in San Antonio, Texas, for example, went door-to-door leading up to the April 1 deadline, urging residents to send in their forms. Texas stands to gain three congressional seats after the count is finished.

The People’s World article also warns its readers that “filling out a census form is mandatory by law.” The federal government can fine people $100 for not complying with the census and $500 for providing false information.  
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