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Census Bureau director to resign amid criticism over data

by The Associated Press | January 18, 2021 at 3:47 p.m.
U.S. Census Director Steven Dillingham pauses after speaking at a news conference to urge Arizonans to participate in the nation's once-a-decade census population count Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Phoenix. Ending the 2020 census at the end of September instead of the end of October, could cost Florida and Montana congressional seats and result in Texas, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, and North Carolina losing $500 million in federal funding for healthcare for its neediest residents. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

Facing criticism over efforts to produce citizenship data to comply with an order from President Donald Trump, U.S. Census Bureau director Steven Dillingham said Monday that he planned to resign with the change in presidential administrations.

Dillingham said in a statement that he would resign on Wednesday, the day Trump leaves the White House and President-elect Joseph Biden takes office. Dillingham's five-year term was supposed to be finished at the end of the year.

The Census Bureau director's departure comes as the statistical agency is crunching the numbers for the 2020 census, which will be used to determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets, as well as the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending each year.

Last week, Democratic lawmakers called on Dillingham to resign after a watchdog agency said he had set a deadline that pressured statisticians to produce a report on the number of people in the U.S. illegally.

A report by the Office of Inspector General last week said bureau workers were under significant pressure from two Trump political appointees to figure out who is in the U.S. illegally using federal and state administrative records, and Dillingham had set a Friday deadline for bureau statisticians to provide him a technical report on the effort.

One whistleblower told the Office of Inspector General that the work was "statistically indefensible."

After the release of the inspector general's report, leaders of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, Asian Americans Advancing Justice and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights called for Dillingham's resignation, and several Democratic lawmakers followed suit.

Dillingham then ordered an indefinite halt to the efforts to produce data showing the citizenship status of every U.S. resident through administrative records.

In his statement, Dillingham said he had been considering retiring earlier, but he had been persuaded at the time to stick around.

"I know that President-Elect Biden understands the important role of statistical agencies and I am confident that he will select talented leadership for the Census Bureau, as evidenced by the strong and experienced leadership team he supports for the Department of Commerce," Dillingham said.

The Census Bureau didn't respond to an email inquiring about Dillingham's interim successor.

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