January 2021 Begins with Major Census News: Director Resigns; Efforts to Produce Count of Illegal Immigrants Halted; and New Commerce Secretary Nominated

On January 18, Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham announced his retirement effective January 20, 2021, a little more than 11 months before his current term expires. NPR confirmed that Deputy Director Ron Jarmin would serve as the Acting Census Bureau Director—a position he held for almost two years prior to Director Dillingham’s confirmation.

Director Dillingham’s announcement came only days after the media reported that the Department of Commerce Inspector General (IG) was investigating whistleblowers’ complaints regarding a “technical report” the Director had ordered Census Bureau employees to produce about the number of documented and undocumented immigrants in the United States. Career Census Bureau employees expressed concern about the pressure they were under to produce this report without being given sufficient time to conduct quality data checks and ensure the report’s accuracy. In a blog accompanying his retirement announcement, Dillingham defended his actions stating that “the request for data was relevant and responsive to an officially announced and much publicized directive from the President pursuant to Executive Order 13880, issued on July 11, 2019.” More importantly, the Director’s blog also confirmed his decision to cease all work on the report shortly after receiving a formal request for information from the Commerce IG on January 12, 2021.

In addition to Director Dillingham’s departure, all other Census Bureau political appointees, including Nathaniel Cogley, Deputy Director of Policy, and Benjamin Overholt, Deputy Director for Data, resigned their positions also effective January 20.

On January 8, President-Elect Biden nominated Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo to serve as the next Secretary of the Department of Commerce. The Census Bureau is a part of the Commerce Department. Raimondo’s position requires confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

A new Census Bureau Director will most likely not be nominated until well after the new Commerce Secretary is confirmed.