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Census Bureau director: ‘Stand down' on tracking immigrants

Michael Macagnone, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

According to whistleblowers, Dillingham ordered officials to prioritize the exclusion of undocumented workers in a bid to finish that work before President-elect Joe Biden takes office next week. Whistleblowers came forward alleging the work would not pass muster and officials had ignored their concerns.

“Those employees acknowledged that they have not had sufficient time to conduct their normal data quality checks, and they expressed concern that the data required for this report is not ready for publication for several reasons,” the watchdog report said.

Democrats in the House, who have frequently clashed with the Trump administration over census operations, said Wednesday they were pleased the work stopped.

“Even in his last days in office — during impeachment proceedings — Trump is still trying to pull a fast one on the American people by defying the Constitution, corrupting the #2020Census, and using it for the GOP’s political supremacy,” Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., said in a tweet Wednesday in response to NPR report. “He failed. And of course, he got caught.”

Officials at the Census Bureau did not respond to multiple requests Wednesday for comment.

Experts and observers have complained about apparent politicization of the process for months, including the administration’s installation of two political appointees at the agency last fall. Tuesday’s whistleblower report said they were key in the effort to rush the exclusion of undocumented immigrants.


Trump signed a memorandum seeking to exclude undocumented immigrants in July. Shortly after that, the administration dropped its efforts to extend the census count so Trump could still control apportionment calculations regardless of who won the November election.

The Supreme Court allowed the effort to go forward last month, finding the current case “riddled with contingencies and speculation” and overruling lower court rulings that found the effort unconstitutional.

However, the administration has not said how many undocumented immigrants it could cross-reference with census results and exclude.

Census results are also used in legislative map making, guiding $1.5 trillion in federal spending each year and thousands of private business decisions.

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