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US: Census Won't Deter Immigration Raids

By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER
The Associated Press
Friday, August 17, 2007; 10:53 PM

WASHINGTON -- Immigration officials sharpened their message a day after being coy about whether they would agree to halt enforcement raids during the 2010 census. "We won't entertain any request to scale back our efforts," Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Kelly Nantel said Friday.

Census officials had planned to speak with immigration agents about curbing enforcement during the population count, the Census Bureau's second-ranking official said in an interview earlier this week.

Raids during the population count would make an already distrustful group even less likely to cooperate with government workers who are supposed to include them in the headcount, Deputy Director Preston Jay Waite had said.

When asked Thursday if the immigration enforcement agency would consider suspending raids during the census, spokeswoman Pat Reilly said, "If we were, we wouldn't talk about it."

"We're an investigative agency," she added. "We don't talk about how we target our enforcement activities."

The Constitution requires the Census Bureau to count everyone, including illegal immigrants, in the census.

Immigration agents informally agreed to cooperate with the Census Bureau during the 2000 census by not conducting any large-scale raids, said Waite and Kenneth Prewitt, who directed the Census Bureau during the 2000 count.

Public discussion about possibly repeating the policy in 2010 knocked the Bush administration off message a week after two members of the president's Cabinet announced stepped-up efforts to enforce the nation's immigration laws.

Nantel said she wanted to clarify the enforcement agency's position.

"I don't want there to be any question in the American people's mind as to whether or not ICE would suspend enforcement efforts," Nantel said. "The answer to that is emphatically no."

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On The Net: Immigration and Customs Enforcement: http://www.ice.gov/

© 2007 The Associated Press