The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) notified the U.S. Census Bureau recently that it shouldn't expect any let-up in the number of workplace raids during the 2010 census.
Around the time of the 2000 census, federal immigration officials gave the Census Bureau some breathing room, reducing the number of raids in the months just before and after the census count so that reliable population numbers could be secured. Nonprofit organizations, churches, school systems and other institutions that serve large numbers of immigrant families were provided with information sheets, stickers, pins and other publicity materials to promote participation in the census.
Many of us in the Latino community made personal assurances to immigrant residents we knew that the census was confidential and that answering the questions honestly was essential to making sure that Wisconsin got its fair share of federal resources and representation.
Many immigrants complied with the 2000 census, giving the interviewers data about their family structure, household income, and other personal topics. The result was a more accurate (i.e., higher) count of the number of people who live in our state and therefore a larger slice of the federal revenue pie for things like education, economic development, administrative services and healthcare.
For the Milwaukee Public Schools, for example, an accurate count of our constituents means that we get more federal Title I dollars and can provide more services that don't depend on the local property tax. Ironically, MPS Title I services have included classes in English as a Second Language and citizenship for parents so that they can better communicate with schools about their children's education.
Of course, soon after the 2000 census was completed, the political landscape changed and immigrants of any sort became the targets of federal fire. The number of raids went through the roof and a whole bunch of Mexican egg farmers, Polish asbestos removal workers and Haitian janitors have gotten swept up in the hunt for Middle Eastern terrorists. The number of administrative (i.e., non-criminal) arrests of immigrant workers in ICE raids grew from 485 in 2002 to 3,651 in 2007, according to ICE's website.
Given the recent raids' chilling effect on immigrants' willingness to speak up, C. Louis Kincannon, director of the Census Bureau, told the New York Times that his office would "rely heavily on trusted individuals and organizations within hard-to-count populations to partner with us to increase public awareness that it's important and safe to participate in the 2010 census."
Yeah, right. Not this time. Sorry, "partner."
Jennifer Morales is an elected member of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors, the first person of Latino descent to hold that position. She was first elected in 2001 and was unopposed for re-election in 2005. In 2004, she ran for a seat in the Wisconsin state senate, earning 43% of the vote against a 12-year incumbent.
Previously, she served as the editorial assistant at the educational journal Rethinking Schools; as assistant director of two education policy research centers at UW-Milwaukee; and as the development director for 9to5, National Association of Working Women.
She became the first person in her immediate family to graduate from college, earning a B.A. in Modern Languages and Literatures from Beloit College in 1991.
In addition to her work on the school board, she is a freelance editorial consultant and a mother.