Pressure has been mounting on Dillingham and the bureau, following the Commerce Department Office of Inspector General’s sending a memo last week alleging that he was pressuring bureau employees to rush a technical data report on the number of unauthorized immigrants in the country. After the OIG memo was made public, Dillingham said in a letter that he ordered those involved to “stand down” on that technical report.
Several key Democratic lawmakers told POLITICO last week that Dillingham should resign, or be removed from his post by President-elect Joe Biden, following the OIG report. Talking Points Memo first reported Dillingham’s resignation on Monday.
Biden’s transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Dillingham’s resignation.
In a blog post accompanying his resignation, Dillingham said he had “received requests to continue serving during and after the transition, including from a President-Elect Biden transition official,” but he did not give a timetable for when those requests were made.
He praised the work of employees of the bureau and highlighted his long career of government service. He also said that 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.”
Ron Jarmin, a career civil servant and deputy director of the bureau, would serve as acting director in the interim, once Dillingham resigns and until a new director is named and approved by the Senate. He previously served as acting director for about a year and a half, before Dillingham was appointed, and has been at the bureau since 1992.
The soon-to-be-former director also wrote that the whistleblower concerns relayed in the Commerce OIG memo “appear to be misunderstandings regarding the planned process for the review and potential postings of data, and the agreed upon need to apply data quality standards.”
The now-scrapped technical report was related to an executive order Trump issued in July 2019 that sought to obtain citizenship data through government records, shortly after the Supreme Court ruled that the administration could not include a citizenship question on the decennial count.
Separately, Trump issued a memorandum a year later that sought to exclude certain undocumented immigrants from the apportionment count, which determines the number of House seats and Electoral College votes each state gets. In December, the Supreme Court punted on ruling on a challenge to the memorandum, saying it was not ripe for review.
Historically, undocumented immigrants are included in the count, and Biden has said he opposed Trump’s efforts to exclude them, almost assuredly spelling the end for Trump’s plans.
Apportionment data was due by statute on Dec. 31, 2020, but the pandemic scrambled the agency’s schedule. The agency initially pleaded with Congress in the summer of 2020 to grant an extension for various deadlines. Congress never did, and the agency did an about-face on its request in August 2020, saying it would push to deliver data by the end of 2020.
Experts both inside and outside the agency feared that rushing to deliver the data — and the president’s memorandum to exclude undocumented immigrants — was a politically motivated attempt by the Trump administration to skew numbers that could ultimately benefit Republicans.
The Census Bureau announced over the weekend that no apportionment data — or data on the undocumented immigrant population — would be published “prior to the change of Administration on January 20,” in an agreement in a lawsuit brought by the National Urban League and other plaintiffs about the accuracy of the count.
Earlier in the week, Justice Department lawyers representing the bureau in that case said that apportionment data would probably not be available until early March. In the agreement, the government stated that the apportionment data “will not be in position to finalize or provide apportionment data until many weeks after January 20.”
Tyler Pager and Daniel Lippman contributed to this report.