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Undocumented immigrants need to be counted without fear

Kandiyohi County residents who are here illegally or are undocumented will not be prosecuted if they fill out a 2010 Census form and should instead be encouraged to fill out the forms.

Kandiyohi County Attorney Boyd Beccue said there is a "particular level of fear" that census information will be sent to county or U.S. attorneys and that illegal immigrants will be prosecuted.

"Not true," said Beccue during an update Tuesday to the County Board on local efforts to have a complete census count.

Beccue said local law enforcement have told him they believe the population in Kandiyohi County has been "significantly undercounted because of that fear."

He said county, state or federal attorneys will not receive census information obtained from any residents, whether they are here legally or not.

Not having every person counted, including undocumented residents, could negatively affect the community by reducing federal funding. Minnesota also faces the possibility of losing one congressional seat because of the population level.

County Auditor Sam Modderman, who is on the committee to have a complete census count in Willmar, said some immigrants come from countries where a census has different connotations regarding government interaction with people. That perspective has generated some fear among new residents who don't understand the purpose of the U.S. Census is "just to count people."

Modderman said the local committee is working hard to get information about the census to people, including programs broadcast in three languages on WRAC 8.

On the county level, a meeting was held in December with township and city officials about how to reach people, including those who leave the state in the winter.

Modderman said it's important that those individuals register their residence in Minnesota and not where they are vacationing.

Reminders about filling out the census forms will also be printed on tax statements "to ensure that everyone is counted," said Modderman.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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