Government officials balked when the Census Bureau set a last-minute deadline to assemble data on non-citizens as part of an apparent anti-immigration push by the Trump administration before leaving office, according to a new watchdog report.
The Commerce Department’s inspector general, overseeing the 2020 Census, revealed on Tuesday that Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham told employees that a non-citizen tally is “a number one priority” and is due to him this Friday.
The memorandum from Inspector General Peggy Gustafson outlines the claims made to her by whistleblowers and says Census employees raised internal objections to the plan.
“Career employees informed us that they are under significant pressure to produce this technical report,” the memorandum says. “Bureau officials are concerned that incomplete data could be misinterpreted, misused, or otherwise tarnish the Bureau’s reputation.”
In light of the complaints, she said, it is unclear whether Dillingham may have backed down from the urgent timeline and that the “deadline may no longer be in effect.”
The request is a surprise because Census officials have signaled the population numbers used to divide seats in Congress between the states will not be finalized until after Trump leaves office.
That means the numbers will include undocumented immigrants, because incoming President-elect Joe Biden has rejected Trump’s push to exclude them.
But the directive may be an attempt to force the Biden administration to do it anyway.
The Supreme Court has blocked lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s plan to exclude non-citizens, but there is a long-simmering lawsuit in an Alabama federal courthouse arguing it is unjust to include non-citizens when apportioning political power in Congress and the Electoral College. If the Trump administration compiles a non-citizen tally before leaving office, that lawsuit could find new life and challenge the Biden policy of including undocumented immigrants in the final count.
The IG memorandum asks Dillingham to explain his reasoning for compiling the data.
CNN has asked the Census Bureau for comment on the memo and its timeline for producing the population figures.
Dillingham, a Trump appointee, is scheduled to serve into the Biden administration. His term ends December 31, 2021, but it is possible the incoming President could ask him to step down earlier.