Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris Misrepresents Her Previous Support for Reporting Undocumented Minors to ICE

Harris said it was an "unintended consequence," but CNN reports it was the explicit purpose of the policy, which she opposed changing.


Brian Cahn/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.) yet again misrepresented her record as a prosecutor in response to questions about her tenure as a district attorney, CNN reports.

As the 2020 presidential campaign shifts into gear, Harris, a former San Francisco District Attorney and California Attorney General, has been trying square her decisions as a prosecutor with her progressive stance on criminal justice in the Senate.

In Iowa on Sunday on the Political Party Live podcast, Harris was asked by host Misty Rebik about her previous support for a San Francisco citywide policy to report undocumented juvenile immigrants who were arrested to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.

Harris responded:

"That ended up being an unintended consequence of the policy and I did not support that consequence of that policy. And that policy I believe has since changed because it was not the intended purpose of that policy. I'll say this, and I feel very strongly about it, and I always have, which is this, my background is as a prosecutor and I want to know that a person, a victim of a rape or a child molestation, or a vicious violent crime, I want to know that that victim will be able to run in the middle of the street and wave down a police officer and receive protection and security without having to worry about if they do that they will be deported."

But, as CNN details, it was not an unintended consequence. It was the explicit policy of San Francisco to do so. CNN continues:

While Harris was correct that the policy has since been changed, it was the result of a change in administration. When Newsom left his position as mayor in 2011, his successor changed the city's policy so that police would only report unaccompanied juvenile undocumented immigrants who were arrested to ICE; and again in 2013 when San Francisco passed another ordinance which prohibited reporting any arrested person to ICE except in limited circumstances.

There was an active push by the city's Board of Supervisors when Harris and Newsom were in city office to change the policy to prohibit reporting juvenile undocumented immigrants to ICE unless they had been convicted of a felony. But those efforts were opposed by Harris and Newsom, with Harris saying in one speech she said the Board of Supervisors bill violated federal immigration law.

This is yet another instance of Harris massaging her record as a prosecutor. As I wrote in a review, Harris' new memoir emphasizes her record as a "progressive prosecutor" while failing to address or in any meaningful way account for the numerous instances when her office defended dirty prosecutors and opposed efforts to correct wrongful convictions.

My colleague Elizabeth Nolan Brown has also written extensively about Harris' overzealous prosecutions of sex workers and websites that hosted them. Yesterday, Harris appeared to say she is now in favor of decriminalizing sex work. As Brown writes:

If Harris and law enforcement authorities want to target bad actors who exploit these tools to commit harm, they should target the bad actors themselves, not go after online venues that vastly more people use to positive effect. Harris supported FOSTA and targeted Backpage, twice, but was stopped by a judge both times. In the process, she supported actions that disproportionately punish the vast majority of users who fall into the "consenting adult" category Harris claims she doesn't want to target.

Harris is now a strong, vocal supporter of many criminal justice reforms, but she has also strenuously avoided taking responsibility for her previous stances. She continues to insist on having it both ways, to the detriment of her credibility.

See also: ReasonTV's handy dandy video on Harris' record that she hopes you'll forget.