LatinoJustice Assures Latinos that Census Responses are Confidential

March 9, 2010

Contact: John Garcia (212)739-7513

Many Latinos are worried that their answers to the census questionnaire will be made available to immigration officials, law enforcement, housing authorities, and other government authorities.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF and other civil rights organizations are working hard to make sure that members of our community know that all census responses are confidential and protected by strong national privacy laws.

The census survey does not ask about legal status, and census representatives are prohibited by law from inquiring about it. Census confidentiality is backed up by harsh legal penalties. Every census worker has to swear an oath to keep information confidential, and anyone who violates that confidentiality can be imprisoned for up to five years and fined $250,000.

In addition, the Justice Department has confirmed that the Patriot Act cannot override the confidentiality of the census.

In early March, Assistant Attorney General Ronald H. Weich sent a letter to members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Asian Pacific Caucus, and Black Caucus, to confirm that federal census laws trump the Patriot Act and will bar local, state or other federal agencies from obtaining information compiled by the count.

According to the letter, provisions of the USA Patriot Act that pertain to the gathering and sharing of information do not and will not override the federal confidentiality laws of the U.S. Census.

Read the letter here.

Census data supports the creation of public sector jobs, it funds the schools and programs for early childhood education, it funds hospitals and Medicaid, and it documents discrimination and enforces civil rights laws.

Experts estimate that less than 50 percent of the nation’s Latinos filled out the last census survey. That is why LatinoJustice PRLDEF and other national Civil Rights organizations have lawyers working to make sure members of our community take part in the census, and we have been working with the Census Bureau to make sure everyone’s privacy is protected.

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