During a confirmation hearing for Ron Vitiello, who President Trump nominated to take over Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said the agency is no different than the Ku Klux Klan.
Over several minutes, Harris attempted to get Vitiello to agree with her position that ICE terrorizes minorities in the same way the KKK terrorized blacks.
Harris began by questioning Vitiello, who is currently the agency’s acting director, over a 2014 tweet in which he said the Democratic Party is “liberalcratic and neo-Klanist,” comparisons for which Vitiello later apologized.
Harris argued that if any modern institution is a redux of the KKK, it’s America’s immigration enforcement agency.
Here’s an excerpt of the exchange:
HARRIS: “Why? Why would we call them domestic terrorist group?”
VITIELLO: “Because they tried to use fear and force to change political environment.”
HARRIS: “And what was the motivation for the use of fear and force?”
VITIELLO: “It was based on race and ethnicity.”
HARRIS: “Right. Are you aware of the perception of many about how the power and the discretion at ICE is being used to enforce the laws? Do you see any parallels?”
VITIELLO: “I do not see any parallels between sworn officers and agents —“
HARRIS: “I’m talking about perception.”
VITIELLO: “I do not see a parallel between what is constitutionally mandated as it relates to enforcing the law —“
HARRIS: “Are you aware that there’s a perception —“
VITIELLO: “I see no perception that puts ICE in the same category as the KKK. Is that what you’re asking me?”
HARRIS: “No, I’m very specific about what I’m asking you. Are you aware of a perception that the way that the discretion —“
VITIELLO: “I see no parallel.”
HARRIS: “I’m not finished.”
VITIELLO: “I see none.”
HARRIS: “I’m not finished. Are you aware there’s a perception that ICE is administering its power in a way that is causing fear and intimidation, particularly among immigrants and specifically among immigrants coming from Mexico and Central America? Are you aware of that perception?”
VITIELLO: “I do not see a parallel between the power and the authority that ICE has to do its job and the agents and officers who do it professionally and excellently with lots of compassion.”
HARRIS: “Sir, how can you be the head of the agency and be unaware of how your agency is perceived by certain communities?”
VITIELLO: “There is a lot of perceptions in the media and in the public that are incorrect about the agency —“
HARRIS: “But the perception exists, would you agree? Whether or not it’s correct. And wouldn’t you agree then, if that perception exists, there might need to be some work done to correct the perception?”
VITIELLO: “I do want to advocate for the workforce, that the vital public safety mission they have to protect the homeland. And I think more people need to know how valuable they are to this society, so I agree with you on that.”