President Donald Trump’s Census Bureau director resigned on Monday after months of controversy over the bureau’s treatment of undocumented immigrants in the decennial count.
Census director Steven Dillingham said in a message to staff Monday that he’s retiring from federal service when Joe Biden assumes the presidency on Jan. 20. His term was set to end in December 2021.
His departure comes amid heightened scrutiny over his handling of the 2020 Census and questions around whether he pressured political appointees to push through a population count that excludes undocumented immigrants before Trump leaves office.
Last week, Dillingham said he’d asked political appointees to “stand down” in their efforts to rush the count. His announcement came after the Commerce Department’s inspector general launched a probe into whether census counters were short-cutting data quality standards.
Excluding undocumented immigrants from that count would likely give Republicans an advantage in congressional elections — and the Electoral College — for the next decade. Biden had signaled he would likely shelve the effort as soon as he’s inaugurated.
Trump ordered the Census Bureau in 2019 to produce a “complete and accurate data on the number of citizens, non-citizens, and illegal aliens in the country.” He followed that up last year with a directive to use those numbers to produce the constitutionally required count used to apportion congressional districts among the states.
Dillingham, who took office in January 2019, said in ablog post that he expects Biden will have “complete confidence” in the census when it’s complete.
“My planned departure would have occurred earlier, but I received requests to continue serving during and after the transition, including from a President-Elect Biden transition official,” he wrote.
He said that under “other circumstances, I would be honored to serve President-elect Biden just as I served the past five presidents.”
Dillingham added: “We have just seen how late changes and directives, competing and divisive political campaigns, and a divided electorate can negatively impact public trust and perceptions.”
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