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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Census Bureau Orders Halt to Efforts to Comply With Trump Citizenship Mandate

Census Bureau workers were ordered this week to stop complying with President Donald Trump’s order to collect data on the immigration status of people living in the United States, the bureau’s director said Wednesday.

Steven Dillingham, the director, said in a memo that he informed officials at the agency “that those involved should ‘stand down’ and discontinue their data reviews.”

Dillingham, a Trump nominee, was writing to Peggy Gustafson, the inspector general for the Department of Commerce. She told Dillingham on Tuesday that several whistleblowers at the Census Bureau informed her of a directive that the production of a report that includes data on legal and illegal immigrants was the “number one priority” for the director. The whistleblowers said Dillingham set a Jan. 15 deadline for the report.

The report relates to Trump’s 2019 executive order directing all executive agencies to share data concerning immigration with the Department of Commerce. Trump issued the order after being blocked from adding a question about citizenship to the census.

“Today’s executive order will finally give us an accurate understanding of how many citizens and non-citizens live in our country,” then-Attorney General William Barr said during a press conference announcing the order.

Dillingham said the bureau has since then been working on collecting and processing data on citizenship. Ron Jarmin, the bureau’s deputy director, reported this week that there are “problems with the data that would require additional work,” prompting the director to inform him that there is no deadline for the data and no pressure in regards to finishing the work.

Dillingham said the production of a report was Jarmin’s idea. Only three analysts were working on the report, compared to the hundreds working on the census. Dillingham said the bureau’s “highest priority” is completing the processing of data from the 2020 Census.

The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The bureau missed its statutory deadline for delivering numbers used to apportion congressional seats. In a statement issued just before the deadline, the bureau said it will deliver a “complete and accurate state population count for apportionment in early 2021, as close to the statutory deadline as possible.”

Trump signed an order in July directing the government to exclude illegal aliens from the calculations used to apportion congressional seats. That order, which was upheld by the Supreme Court late last year, could be affected by the Census Bureau’s latest memo.

Mimi Nguyen Ly, Ivan Pentchoukov, and Matthew Vadum contributed to this report.

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