President Trump has demanded since summer that the Census Bureau produce a state-by-state tally of immigrants who are in the country illegally, numbers long sought by Republicans who want to base political maps on population figures that do not include undocumented immigrants. On Tuesday, a federal inspector general questioned an order to deliver the estimates before Mr. Trump leaves office, after whistle-blowers warned that the rush would imperil their accuracy.
The Commerce Department inspector general, Peggy E. Gustafson, said in a letter that two White House political appointees were the “driving forces” behind the order, which required census experts to deliver counts of unauthorized immigrants by Friday, five days before Inauguration Day.
Her letter states that the Census Bureau director appointed by Mr. Trump, Steven Dillingham, had designated the estimates a top priority for the bureau’s data experts, even though completion of the 2020 census itself has fallen months behind schedule because of the coronavirus pandemic. The letter said Mr. Dillingham had discussed offering cash bonuses for producing the estimates quickly.
Mr. Dillingham backed off his order this week, according to bureau employees who refused to be named for fear of retaliation. Some of them said career employees planned to refuse to deliver substandard estimates, which would have led to an unprecedented standoff between the agency’s political leaders and its traditionally nonpartisan staff.