With less than six months to go before the start of the 2010 census, immigration reform activists — divided over whether undocumented immigrants should volunteer to be counted — are escalating rhetoric as they seek critical support from Latino evangelical pastors.

On Oct. 1, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) launched a nationwide campaign to encourage participation in the census and recruit support from faith leaders. Arturo Vargas, NALEO’s executive director, said nonparticipants in the census “cause injury to their community” by keeping public resources from reaching their neighbors in need.

At the same time, a group of evangelical Latino pastors who support a census boycott is not backing down.

The heated exchanges underscore the high stakes of the once-a-decade population count. Communities with large immigrant populations stand to win more representation in Congress and attract millions in additional federal funding under existing formulas.

Yet if immigrants avoid census takers en masse, such benefits may never materialize.

The boycott threat “is the only reason why we’re beginning to see some movement in Congress on comprehensive immigration reform,” said Miguel Rivera, president of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC), which supports a boycott.  To read the full story click here.

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