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Census chief quits early after final round of citizenship controversy


The Trump-appointed official overseeing the 2020 census announced his resignation on Monday, nearly a year before his term was scheduled to end.

Census Bureau Director Steve Dillingham’s announcement comes days after the Trump administration backed off from its final attempt to exclude undocumented immigrants from an important count of the nation’s population.

The departure saves him from the possibility of being fired by the incoming Biden administration, which has indicated it will not follow the Trump administration’s plan to exclude non-citizens when splitting seats in Congress between the states.

Dillingham wrote in a note to Census Bureau employees that he would retire effective Wednesday at noon, when the Trump administration hands off the reins of government.

Dillingham’s term in office was not scheduled not expire until the end of the year.

In internal messages, Dillingham called the last-minute assignment to tally non-citizens “a number one priority,” even as the Census Bureau is working through significant data anomalies in its decennial population count that is actively delaying the task of producing population figures that were due on December 31.

The Commerce Department inspector general — an internal watchdog monitoring the census — revealed the directive last week. Employees told the inspector general they were “under significant pressure to produce this technical report” and that they were “concerned that incomplete data could be misinterpreted, misused, or otherwise tarnish the Bureau’s reputation.”

After the effort was publicly revealed, Dillingham told the inspector general he would reverse course.

But the incident prompted a federal judge hearing a lawsuit over the apportionment issue to order the Trump administration not finalize the count in its remaining days in office.

The Democratic chairwoman of the House Oversight committee, which has been probing the Trump administration’s handling of the decennial population count, on Friday called on Dillingham to resign.

Dillingham wrote that he “received requests to continue serving during and after the transition, including from a President-Elect Biden transition official,” although he did not specify whether that official who apparently made that request knew of the last-minute non-citizen directive.

Article Topic Follows: Politics

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