President Trump has demanded since the summer that the Census Bureau produce a state-by-state tally of immigrants who are in the country illegally, figures long sought after by Republicans who want to base political maps on population figures that do not do not include undocumented immigrants. On Tuesday, a federal inspector general questioned an order to reset the estimates before Mr. Trump left office, after whistleblowers warned the rush would put their accuracy at risk.
Commerce Department Inspector General Peggy E. Gustafson said in a letter that two White House appointees were the “driving forces” of the order, which demanded that census experts provide the immigrant count. not authorized by Friday, five days before the opening day.
His letter says that the director of the Census Bureau appointed by Mr Trump, Steven Dillingham, had designated the estimates as a top priority for the bureau’s data experts, even though the completion of the 2020 census itself took challenges. months late due to the coronavirus pandemic. The letter stated that Mr. Dillingham had discussed offering cash bonuses to quickly produce the estimates.
Mr Dillingham rescinded his order this week, according to office workers who declined to be named for fear of reprisal. Some of them said career employees planned to refuse to provide substandard estimates, leading to an unprecedented standoff between the agency’s political leaders and its traditionally non-partisan staff.
“It was just ‘give us what you got,'” said an office worker, adding that the estimates “just weren’t ready for prime time.
The Census Bureau has sparked controversy, largely over the issue of counting unauthorized immigrants, virtually since Mr. Trump took office. A battle over the Trump administration’s order to ask census respondents if they were U.S. citizens took to the Supreme Court before judges banned the question in 2019, saying the rationale for the question by officials was “artificial”.
The administration offered a new rationale in July, saying it wanted a count of unauthorized non-citizens so that states could infer them from the overall 2020 census results, which count all people living in the country, which whatever their nationality. This would produce a more rural, Republican-leaning population base when political maps are redrawn later this year based on new census figures.
Republican lawmakers in some states, including Texas and Missouri, are pushing for a limit on the citizen population count. All states currently draw maps using total population figures, or something very close to them, and the legality of relying on citizen-only population totals is unclear.