Despite shortfalls in hiring workers to conduct the upcoming 2020 count, the Census Bureau does not plan to hire noncitizens this time around, a source has told The Washington Post.
In recent decennial counts, door-to-door census takers could be legal permanent residents or noncitizens with a work visa and a bilingual skill that no available citizen possessed. Such employees made up a tiny percentage of hires in the last count, but have been seen as crucial to reaching hard-to-count immigrant communities whose members might not understand or trust the process, and where response rates are typically lower than the general population.
Federal appropriations law generally prohibits hiring noncitizens to work for the federal government, but in recent census cycles the bureau has requested a waiver and the Office of Personnel Management has approved it.
However, in a meeting Tuesday, Census Bureau staff were told that noncitizens would not be hired, according to a person who works in the Department of Commerce and is familiar with Census Bureau matters.
The change, if implemented, comes amid fears that the 2020 count is under siege by an administration which has proposed other changes that could depress the count among minority and immigrant groups.
Among bureau staff, the announcement was seen as a political move, the source said, adding, ‘‘The feeling was this is going to happen, and yes, it’s because of the administration.’’
In a strong job market, when the bureau is already having trouble meeting recruiting goals, ‘‘to go further out of our way to restrict who we can hire, no one within the census would do this; it doesn’t make any sense,’’ the source said.
The Office of Personnel Management referred a request for comment to the Census Bureau, which did not respond to questions about whether a waiver was sought or denied for the upcoming decennial count.