The United States Census Bureau is currently exploring whether or not the agency can hire non-U.S. citizens to assist with the 2020 count, by utilizing legal loopholes in federal hiring standards.
What are the details?
Although federal employees are legally required to be U.S. citizens, there are exceptions to the rule in certain circumstances. According to U.S. News & World Report, the Census Bureau is looking to which, if any, of those exceptions can be used in a climate with political divides over illegal immigration, coupled with the challenge of finding enough able workers amid such a low unemployment rate.
The outlet reported that "the annual Appropriations Act prohibits the use of appropriated funds to employ noncitizens within the U.S." Yet, there are exceptions, such as when temporary translators are needed, if an applicant is a permanent resident alien seeking citizenship, a legally admitted refugee, someone granted asylum, or folks hired for no more than 60 days "on an emergency basis."
Tim Olson, associate director for field operations at the Census Bureau, told U.S. News, "There are flexibilities within the Appropriation Act that would permit, for example, based on language requirements, some exemptions. We are actively working through those flexibilities to see if they can be used in 2020. We are not there yet."
A bureau spokesperson refused to directly answer whether the agency planned to hire illegal aliens, saying, "There is nowhere in our legal flexibilities that refers to people we could possibly hire as 'illegal,'" but they acknowledged that the term "non-citizen" includes "anyone who is not a U.S. citizen."
The fact that the Census Bureau is considering the hiring exceptions is not entirely out of the ordinary. Olson acknowledged that for the 2010 census during the Obama administration, the law made it clear that the bureau could hire noncitizens — and it did.
As part of its 2020 recruitment drive, the Census Bureau's website states the agency "is looking for people who speak non-English languages, and those who live in neighborhoods with large immigrant populations so that our census takers look like the neighborhood we're counting."