Census numbers won’t be released before change in power

AP National News
Steven Dillingham

Steven Dillingham, the director of the U.S. Census Bureau, speaks outside the Oklahoma State Capitol, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Oklahoma City, encouraging people to fill out their census form before the end of the month. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Government attorneys and municipalities fighting over the 2020 census asked a judge Friday to put their court case on hold, as Department of Justice attorneys said the Census Bureau for now will not release numbers that could be used to exclude people in the U.S. illegally from the process of divvying up congressional seats.

Department of Justice attorneys and attorneys for a coalition of municipalities and advocacy groups that had sued the Trump administration over the 2020 census asked U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh to suspend their court case for 21 days so the administration of President-elect Joe Biden can take power and decide how to proceed.

“Such a stay would permit the incoming Administration to evaluate the Census Bureau’s and the Department of Commerce’s operations and assess, among other things, the interests of the United States and its litigating positions in light of Plaintiffs’ claims in this case,” the attorneys said in a court filing Friday.

The Trump administration attorneys said the Census Bureau would not be releasing figures related to two orders from Presidential Donald Trump before the change in administrations.

Trump’s first order, issued in 2019, directed the Census Bureau to use administrative records to figure out who is in the country illegally after the Supreme Court blocked his administration’s effort to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census questionnaire. In a separate order last year, Trump instructed the Census Bureau, as part of the 2020 count of every U.S. resident, to provide data that would allow his administration to exclude people in the U.S. illegally from the numbers used for divvying up congressional seats among the states.

An influential GOP adviser had advocated excluding them from the apportionment process in order to favor Republicans and non-Hispanic whites, even though the Constitution spells out that every person in each state should be counted. Trump’s unprecedented order on apportionment was challenged in more than a half-dozen lawsuits around the U.S., but the Supreme Court ruled last month that any challenge was premature.

The court filing also said the Trump administration would not be releasing the numbers used for apportioning congressional seats among the states, and determining the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal funding, before the change in administrations.

A hearing in the case was scheduled for later Friday.

Meanwhile, a group of Democratic lawmakers are joining civil right groups in calling for U.S. Census Bureau director Steven Dillingham’s resignation after a watchdog agency said he had set a deadline for pressured statisticians to produce a report on the number of people in the U.S. illegally.

Dillingham on Wednesday ordered an indefinite halt to the efforts to produce data showing the citizenship status of every U.S. resident through administrative records after facing blowback from civil rights groups and concerns raised by whistleblower statisticians about the accuracy of such figures.

A report by the Office of Inspector General on Wednesday 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.

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.

Democratic lawmakers in Congress have followed suit in the past two days, saying Dillingham has allowed the Trump administration to politicize the 2020 census.

“The Trump administration waged a damaging campaign against the census with the intent of manipulating the results to be politically advantageous for the President and the Republican Party,” said U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire in a statement. “Census Director Steven Dillingham’s failure to put country over loyalty to the President allowed these transgressions to occur and he therefore should resign.”

U.S. Rep. Judy Chu of California said in a statement that communities of color have borne the brunt of attacks on the census.

“Officials like Steven Dillingham who cannot put the needs of the nation over the demands of a twice impeached President should resign,” said Chu, who chairs the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia said in a statement that Dillingham “has now demonstrated he was willing to carry out Mr. Trump’s xenophobic campaign to manipulate the Census despite clear congressional and plain constitutional mandate to count all persons.”

Dillingham’s five-year term is finished at the end of the year. The Census Bureau did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP.

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