Kamala Harris’ Immigration Record
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden finally announced his long-awaited pick for his running mate: former primary opponent and Senator from California, Kamala Harris. The pick is not entirely surprising. Biden himself is a creature of the Senate and many observers felt that his pick would almost certainly come from that chamber. In April, Biden’s team vetted and considered at least six sitting female senators. Within Biden’s team, Harris’ chief drawback was her bristling takedown of Biden himself in a June 2019 debate.
Harris is the daughter of immigrants – her mother hails from India and her father is Jamaican. Before running for Senate in California, she served as a district attorney for San Francisco from 2004-2011 and as the state’s attorney general from 2011-2017 under Governor Jerry Brown. During her time as attorney general Harris opposed efforts by national Republicans that targeted sanctuary cities and states, writing that “criminal justice policy should not be conflated with national immigration policy.” She also established legal clinics and job training programs for ex-convicts that allowed illegal aliens to participate.
Harris ran for Senate in the 2016 election cycle, replacing retiring California Senator Barbara Boxer. In the Senate, Harris became a leading opponent of the Trump administration’s immigration agenda, with Vox labeling her as the “anti-Jeff Sessions,” referencing the then-U.S. attorney general who was then and is now a prominent supporter of immigration enforcement. She publicly announced that she would not vote for any spending bills unless they contained protections for recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and vehemently opposed the Trump administration’s attempt to rescind the executive memorandum. Harris also voted against a compromise that would have given the Trump administration $25 billion to construct a border wall in exchange for a DACA amnesty. During the Senate confirmation hearing of Ronald Vitiello, President Trump’s then-nominee to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Harris compared the immigration enforcement agency to the Ku Klux Klan.
On January 21, 2019, Harris announced she would seek the Democratic nomination for president. Harris’ biggest moment came at the Miami debate where she released a full throttled attack against Joe Biden for his historical stance on busing and desegregation. Harris made it a sticking point of her campaign to overtake Biden in the polls, attacking him on the debate stage by accusing him of having insensitivity on racial issues. Her campaign appeared to be on the ascent after her performance.
Harris released an immigration policy plan that was in lockstep with the progressive wing of the Democratic party. Her campaign promised that “As president, Harris will take executive action to keep immigrant families together and eliminate barriers that prevent Dreamers from accessing a path to U.S. citizenship.” Harris’ team estimated that her plan shielded more than 6 million illegal aliens from removal, with a pathway to citizenship for 2.1 million. She also promised to resurrect the Obama-era Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), a program that lower courts struck down as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court upheld the ban in a 4-4 vote, and the Trump administration officially rescinded DAPA in June 2017.
Alarmingly, no part of Harris’ plan involved moving legislation through Congress. Instead, Harris planned to unilaterally use her parole powers to expand eligibility for DACA and use the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to distribute work authorization documents to illegal aliens. Essentially, Harris planned to use the legal basis or DACA to expand the program well beyond people brought to the United States as minors. Harris pledged that “the deferred action program will also be open to other law-abiding immigrants with ties to their communities” – a catch-all categorization with no real barriers to eligibility.
As her campaign gathered more momentum, prominent open borders advocacy groups endorsed her, including United Farm Workers (UFW) who specifically praised her “bold leadership on immigration.” In their endorsement, UFW stated that “we also support Senator Harris because of her bold leadership on immigrant rights, from championing genuine immigration reform to voting against funding for Trump’s cruel and useless wall.” The activist group United We Dream (UWD) similarly noted that Harris “models leadership” and hailed her aggressive questioning of then-DHS secretary John Kelly in a June 2017 Senate hearing. America’s Voice, a prominent open borders organization, credited Harris for her work as both California’s attorney general and as a U.S. senator.
Despite her debating success, Harris’ campaign never really got off of the ground. Campaign staff accused the campaign manager of being incompetent, and multiple high-level staffers resigned due to the poor treatment of staff and the direction of the campaign. Her campaign ended once her campaign ran out of money, with the candidate admitting that “My campaign for president simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue.” Yet she quickly became a front-runner for the position of Joe Biden’s running mate, particularly after he promised to pick a woman of color. It remains unseen how active Harris will be in the campaign and ultimately what her influence on Biden’s platform will be. Joe Biden’s “Unity Plan,” crafted alongside the progressive surrogates of socialist Bernie Sanders, contains a litany of proposals that would swell the size of America’s illegal alien population and amnesty all 13.5 million illegal aliens in the country. Joe Biden’s solo campaign plan promised to provide “a roadmap to citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants.” Harris’ entry into the race as Biden’s running mate certainly raises the issue of immigration even higher than it already was in this race, given Harris’ focus on the issue during her Senate tenure.