In yesterday's paper, I read with great amusement the desperate cries of state Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and her fellow Dems, urging Hispanics to participate in the U.S. Census this year.
During a Friday news conference, Sinema and Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski assured the undocumented in particular that the info collected in the census will not be used to deport them.
The Dems seemed to be arguing that people who are here sans papers have a civic duty to participate, even though they and their families are being actively hunted down by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the feds, and soon every law enforcement entity in the state, thanks to new bills by veteran Hispanic-hater Russell Pearce.
"Not participating in the census is like robbing ourselves," stated Sinema.
More like "robbing" Sinema. For a pol like her, it could directly affect the arc of her career if Hispanics don't participate.
See, Sinema's dying to run for Congress someday, and if there's vigorous participation in the census by Arizona's Hispanic population -- documented and undocumented -- it could mean an additional Congressional seat for Arizona. Maybe that's a seat Sinema or one of her pals could run for some day.
The census is not only a matter of power, but of money raining down from federal coffers in the future, based on the head count. It's been estimated by some that each person who fills out the census is worth $14,000 per year in federal funds.
But why should someone who is undocumented, someone who is stalked by local law enforcement, and has to live in fear of being pulled over for a cracked windshield or being nabbed in an anti-immigrant sweep or an employer sanctions raid, why should that individual participate?
Former state Senator Alfredo Gutierrez, publisher of the online newspaper La Frontera Times, recalled a recent talk radio show he was interviewed on, where an undocumented caller rang in and asked if it was true that more than half of the City of Phoenix's spending goes for public safety.
"I said, `Yes, I read the same thing,'" Gutierrez stated. "The caller says, `So half of that $14,000, that's going to be used to deport me? Are you crazy?"
"They can hold a press conference a day if they want," said Gutierrez of the Sinema-Nowakowski presser. "They can hold out lollipops. They can bring all the stars they can possibly get to do ads or whatever they want. People are not going to participate as long as there is this climate of fear."
Gutierrez does like one thing about the census: the fact that it hires a lot of people.
"Across the country," explained Gutierrez, "they're panicking that Hispanics aren't participating anywhere near the rate that they participated ten years ago. So they're hiring people left and right now. And that's terrific."
But the feds and states like Arizona have created a situation where they are essentially spitting in folk's faces, then asking for a handshake.
Technically, the census is mandatory, but a lot of people blow it off, and why shouldn't they? Especially when it's coming from a society that's hostile to them and/or people they care about.
Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.