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Inspector Probes Whether Trump Backers Are Rushing Census to Block Immigrants

The director of the U.S. Census Bureau said Wednesday he’s asked political appointees to “stand down” in their efforts to push through a population count that excludes undocumented immigrants before President Donald Trump leaves office.

The statement from Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham comes after the Commerce Department’s inspector general launched a probe into whether census counters were short-cutting data quality standards to produce a report by Friday.

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.

Excluding undocumented immigrants from that count would likely give Republicans an advantage in congressional elections — and the Electoral College — for the next decade. But President-elect Joe Biden has signaled he opposes the move to exclude immigrants and would likely shelve the effort as soon as he’s inaugurated.

In a memo to Census Bureau officials Tuesday, Commerce Inspector General Peggy Gustafson said she was investigating whistle-blower reports that two top political appointees at the agency, Nathaniel Cogley and Benjamin Overholt, were making the report a “top priority” and that career employees were “under significant pressure” to produce the report by Friday.

The inspector general also said Dillingham “inquired into a financial reward for speed on this directive.”

Dillingham said Wednesday there is “no deadline for the data.”

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