Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) was among the handful of United State Senators questioning perspective nominees for director of the US Census Bureau and Assistant Secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, the ICE nominee, and Robert L. Santos, the Census director nominee, were interviewed during the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee meeting held in Washington, DC, on July 15.
Padilla — from Pacoima, and the first Latino Senator — began the hearing by questioning Gonzalez about ICE officers intentionally misrepresenting themselves as local law enforcement in an effort to intimidate and terrorize immigrant communities.
Last spring, a class action lawsuit was filed in California on this issue and the court ruled that ICE agents falsely claiming to be police violates the Fourth Amendment.
“Under the Trump Administration, there were reports of ICE agents falsely claiming to be police and concealing their true identities to persuade community members to open their doors and allow agents into their homes without judicial warrants,” Padilla said. In addition, ICE has used unmarked vehicles to pull people over in areas heavily used by farm workers for example, to increase the number of community arrests, even though they are not authorized to stop people in this manner.
“Sheriff, as someone who has worked in local law enforcement, do you believe ICE officers impersonating local police officers helps or harms public safety? And as a follow-up question to that, what steps would you take, if confirmed, to ensure that ICE officers would not engage in such practices in the future?”
Gonzalez — the sheriff for Harris, County, Texas and a constant critic of former President Trump’s immigration policies — stated that it’s important that ICE does not work in that manner and confirmed that he wants to ensure that ICE presence is not unnecessarily scaring communities.
“I think [ICE Action] always needs to be in the context of proportionality to make sure that we are not unnecessarily scaring communities with the presence … It’s important that ICE does not work in a manner that in any way intentionally just seeks to terrorize communities or anything of the sort,” the sheriff said.
“I think it’s important for us to be a professional agency … I want to make sure that the men and women of ICE that have to carry out these actions are safe, that the community is safe, and that we can do it in a lawful, orderly way as much as possible.”
While interviewing Santos, Padilla noted that — along with the bureau’s tracking of the US population every 10 years — it also conducts a number of other surveys in between the decennial Census including, the American Community Survey, known as the ACS, that relies on sampling and data modeling in the years between the 10-year population count.
“The ACS does ask more detailed questions, more questions and more detailed questions, and new data is released every year on the changing demographics of United States, including information about housing, income levels, marital status, and education attainment levels and so much more,” Padilla said.
“This information, coupled with the decennial census is especially important for local communities and government when crafting policy, making investments, allocating resources and services. Mr. Santos, how can we ensure the sampling is robust enough so that it accurately represents especially smaller population areas in the United States where there may be a higher need for investments in education, infrastructure, social safety programs, etc.?”
Santo replied, “The American Community Survey is a national treasure because it really does allows us to understand who we are as a nation in our rich diversity and our situation. … As part of the design, the statistical sample design of the American Community Survey, there are oversamples that are deliberate overrepresentations of rural areas, of small towns, etc. that are sprinkled throughout the decade so that we can capture that information accurately and reflect it for the benefit of the public.”
Padilla followed up by saying that “many experts” claim that those of Hispanic origin are not accurately being counted due to their mixed-race status and the census’ questions regarding whether an individual is of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin “can be confusing to many Hispanics” who are often from mixed-race and ethnic backgrounds.
He then asked Santos if he was willing to work with the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) “to try and establish a combined race and ethnic question” for the 2030 census.
“Yes, I can fully commit to working with OMB on this,” Santos said.