Tom Williams/CQ roll call via Getty Images
The Biden administration is drafting new regulations to try to better shield the Census Bureau from future political interference from its parent agency, the Commerce Department, bureau director Robert Santos told NPR on Monday.
“I expect there will be deliberations with the Commerce Department of additional regulations to ensure that there is a harder wall between the Census Bureau and the Commerce Department to ensure that ‘There will be no inappropriate activity,’ Santos said in one of his first interviews since becoming bureau chief in January.
The revelation comes after years of interference in the 2020 census by former President Donald Trump’s administration, which tried to add a highly controversial question about US citizenship status to the tally forms, a source added. series of political appointees with no obvious qualifications at the top of the office. ranks and curtailed counting efforts after the COVID-19 pandemic delayed many office operations.
Actions taken by the previous administration have fueled calls for new ways to protect the integrity of the once-a-decade headcount. Last month, a report from the Biden administration’s Scientific Integrity Task Force, which included the bureau’s top official, Deputy Director Ron Jarmin, warned that the bureau and other federal statistical agencies “must protect themselves from interference in their efforts to create and publish data that provides a common set of facts to inform policy makers, researchers and the public.”
The first Latino to head the federal government’s largest statistical agency, Santos has been for weeks in a political nomination that has landed him not only in the American history books, but also in a hotbed of controversy over the results of the tally of 2020 workforce.
While the results have already been used to reallocate each state’s share of Congressional seats and Electoral College votes, as well as redraw maps of electoral districts across the country, questions about accuracy persist over the count. .
On March 10, the office must start publishing the results of its own data quality assessment.
Concerned about the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and interference from the administration of former President Donald Trump, many census watchers are hoping to see how far the 2020 census may continue a decades-long pattern – the overcount of people who identify as white and not Latino and the undercount of people of color.
The flaws in the tally have big implications for political representation, the distribution of some $1.5 trillion a year in federal money, and the understanding of country for people living in the United States. Santos and other bureau officials are under pressure to find new ways to mitigate the effects of a turbulent census.
Santos is also engaging in a heated debate over the privacy protections applied to 2020 census redistricting data and other more detailed information, just as the bureau accelerates its planning for the 2030 census, which could bring new ways to collect data on race and ethnicity, especially on Latinos and people of Middle Eastern or North African descent.