Jan 18, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Census Bureau chief resigns a year early

Steve Dillingham in front of a microphone
Steven Dillingham on Jan. 14. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham announced his resignation on Monday, ending his term nearly a year before it ends.

Why it matters: Dillingham's resignation comes a week after multiple employee whistleblowers told the bureau's internal watchdog that they were under pressure to gather and publish rushed data on documented and undocumented immigrants.

  • Bureau employees said they were concerned that the data would be inaccurate, did not fully understand what they were being asked to analyze, and that "incomplete data could be misinterpreted, misused or otherwise tarnish the Bureau's reputation," the Commerce Department told Dillingham in a Jan. 12 memo.

Where it stands: In a Jan. 14 response letter to the agency, Dillingham said that those involved in the data collection were to "stand down" and stop data reviews.

What he's saying: "None of us could anticipate that as we fully launched the 2020 Census, a global health crisis would upend a schedule and plans which had been carefully constructed over a decade," he said in a farewell letter to his colleagues.

  • "Nor would we anticipate the impact this crisis would have on our numerous vital household surveys and economic products which guide decisions across the public, private, and not-for-profit sector."

The big picture: The Supreme Court in December dismissed a challenge against Trump's attempt to exclude undocumented immigrants from influencing congressional apportionment determined by the 2020 Census.

  • As noted by the New York Times, the White House installed four high-ranking political appointees in the bureau while it pushed for a count of undocumented immigrants.
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