Senate confirms first Latino to lead Census Bureau

Associated Press/Jacquelyn Martin
Census Bureau Director nominee Robert Santos, testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, Thursday, July 15, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Senate has confirmed Santos as the next U.S. Census Bureau director, Thursday, Nov. 4. As a third-generation Mexican American, he will be the first person of color to lead…

The Senate on Thursday confirmed the first Latino to be director of the Census Bureau. 

Senators voted 58-35 on Robert Santos’ nomination. The vote margin was closer than other recent directors, with his two previous Senate-confirmed predecessors confirmed by voice votes.  

Santos is also the first Senate-confirmed person of color to hold the top role, though James Holmes, who is African American, previously served in an acting capacity.  

Santos’ confirmation comes after Steven Dillingham, the bureau’s past permanent director who was appointed by former President Trump, resigned in January. 

Santos’s term will run through 2026, putting him at the bureau’s helm in the lead up to the 2030 census. The bureau is responsible for overseeing major surveys and the country’s decennial population tally, which is used to allocate congressional seats and federal funding for states.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) touted Santos’ nomination ahead of the vote, including his work as one of the country’s leading statisticians.  

“He is exactly the kind of person our country needs overseeing our Census: impartial, highly experienced, and someone from outside politics,” Schumer said. 

“Mr. Santos will restore trust and integrity to one of the most important agencies in government,” he added.

The department has found itself in a string of lawsuits over a delay in the publication of the 2020 census results and in the middle of a firestorm after the Trump administration tried to add a citizenship question and then block undocumented immigrants from being counted. 

Dillingham resigned from the position amid charges from a watchdog that he had pushed for a quick report on undocumented immigrants in the United States. 

An analysis conducted by Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit the Urban Institute, where Santos serves as the vice president and chief methodologist, found that the 2020 census was not undercounted as severely as was initially thought, though it did determine that count accuracy varied in some states and demographics. 

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