Not a big fan of Bob Barr ( I find him odd) but a hat tip to him for this revelation in his column for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
…What many Americans don’t realize, is that census workers — from the head of the Bureau and the Secretary of Commerce (its parent agency) down to the lowliest and newest Census employee — are empowered under federal law to actually demand access to any apartment or any other type of home or room that is rented out, in order to count persons in the abode and for “the collection of statistics.” If the landlord of such apartment or other leased premises refuses to grant the government worker access to your living quarters, whether you are present or not, the landlord can be fined $500.00.
That’s right — not only can citizens be fined if they fail to answer the increasingly intrusive questions asked of them by the federal government under the guise of simply counting the number of people in the country; but a landlord must give them access to your apartment whether you’re there or not, in order to gather whatever “statistics” the law permits.
In fact, some census workers apparently are going even further and demanding — and receiving — private cell phone numbers from landlords in order to call tenants and obtain information from them. Isn’t it great to live in a “free” country?
Always a little suspicious of the Usual Suspects, I decided it would be prudent to find confirmation, i.e., the relevant code. Here it is via Cornell University Law School:
Whoever, being the owner, proprietor, manager, superintendent, or agent of any hotel, apartment house, boarding or lodging house, tenement, or other building, refuses or willfully neglects, when requested by the Secretary or by any other officer or employee of the Department of Commerce or bureau or agency thereof, acting under the instructions of the Secretary, to furnish the names of the occupants of such premises, or to give free ingress thereto and egress therefrom to any duly accredited representative of such Department or bureau or agency thereof, so as to permit the collection of statistics with respect to any census provided for in subchapters I and II of chapter 5 of this title, or any survey authorized by subchapter IV or V of such chapter insofar as such survey relates to any of the subjects for which censuses are provided by such subchapters I and II, including, when relevant to the census or survey being taken or made, the proper and correct enumeration of all persons having their usual place of abode in such premises, shall be fined not more than $500.
Will the average census worker feel empowered to do this? Likely, no. The point here, however, is that the Census Bureau can demand to enter your home in your absence. The fact alone this law exists for any bureau other than law enforcement with a proper search warrant is more than troubling, it’s rankly obscene, if not actually unconstitutional.
UPDATE: Pat S. and I are having a debate about how the code could be interpreted. She thinks my assessment that it allows access to individual apartments is wrong and believes it speaks only to access to the apartment building/complex as a whole, not specific apartments. I think the issue comes down to interpretation of the word “ingress” and also the location in the code of that “free ingress” element. The fact that this specific term comes after the element regarding the furnishing of names indicates (to me) it’s not about access to the building, but an issue after the larger apartment building has already been accessed. “[T]o furnish the names of the occupants of such premises, or to give free ingress thereto and egress therefrom…” I think “free ingress” refers at that point to individual apartments. In other words, you either get the name of the person in that apartment from the landlord or you demand to be let into that apartment, ostensibly, I suppose, to find the name and “statistics” of the person living there. That’s what it looks like to me. Both Pat and I, though, will find more info for you in the meantime.