DOJ Civil Rights Chief Dismisses Census Fears
By Andrew Ramonas | March 17, 2010 1:52 pm

Justice Department Civil Rights Division chief Tom Perez assured Hispanic leaders and activists gathered for the Latino 2010 Census Summit on Capitol Hill Wednesday that personal information collected from the Census is confidential and will not be used against respondents.

Tom Perez (photo by Andrew Ramonas / Main Justice)

Earlier this month, Assistant Attorney General Ron Weich told leaders of the congressional Asian Pacific, Black and Hispanic caucuses that the Patriot Act would not force Census officials to turn over personal information for law enforcement purposes.

Some minority groups have questioned whether the Patriot Act or other laws would force Census officials to hand over identifying information obtained from census forms to law enforcement authorities.

“I am here to tell you on behalf — not simply of the Civil Rights Division — but on behalf of the Department of Justice that the answer to that question is absolutely not,” Perez said.

Perez, who worked on the 2000 Census during the Clinton administration, said he is spending a lot more time combating fears about the 2010 Census, which households across the United States will receive this week. He said it is important for minorities to respond to the Census because it helps their communities and allows his division to better enforce civil rights laws.

“We have a self interest in the division to ensure that this works,” Perez said. “We have a broader self interest because as a voice for the underserved in this nation, we want to make sure we work with our partners to address the critical needs of the Census Bureau.”

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