California Democrat and likely 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris drew fury after comparing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to the Ku Klux Klan during a hearing on Capitol Hill.
She asked Ronald Vitiello, President Trump’s nominee to lead ICE, whether he shares what she said was the public’s view that ICE was spreading fear and mistrust, in particular among immigrant communities, the same way the KKK did.
“Are you aware of the perception of many about how the power and the discretion at ICE is being used to enforce the laws and do you see any parallels [with the KKK]?,” she asked.
“Are you aware of the perception of many about how the power and the discretion at ICE is being used to enforce the laws and do you see any parallels [with the KKK]?”
The comparison prompted outrage, with RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel slamming Harris for “disgusting” partisanship. “Kamala Harris is trying to launch her 2020 campaign off of comparing ICE officers to the KKK, and it’s absolutely disgusting,” she tweeted.
“What utter, complete & horrifying disrespect for our law enforcement officers. I get she’s auditioning for 2020, but come on…,” wrote GOP spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany.
Harris pointed out to Vitiello’s controversial tweet from 2015 in which he said the Democratic Party was comparable to a “liberal-cratic” or “neo-Klanist” entity. The nominee apologized and admitted that those words were offensive.
“What is the history that would then make those words wrong?” the Democrat then asked, prompting Vitiello to say that the KKK would be labeled as a domestic terrorist group by today’s standards and was motivated by race and ethnicity.
But Vitiello pushed back against Harris’ line of questioning, saying “I do not see any parallels” between the immigration enforcement agency and the white supremacist group and inquired whether she was asking him if the two were in the same category.
“No, I’m very specific in what I’m asking you. Are you aware of a perception that the way that they …” Harris went on, before the nominee snapped back saying, “I see none.”
“Are you aware that there is 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?” she asked again.
“Are you aware that there is 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?”
Harris ended her questioning asking whether Vitiello can lead the agency if he’s not aware of the negative views toward it.
“It seems to me that you would understand that when you use words like the words you used just three short years ago, that that would contribute to that perception,” Harris said. “And it’s harmful then, it’s harmful, in terms of the mission of the agency and the work of the individuals there. And it is harmful in terms of leading — innocent people arriving at our border fleeing harm, it is harmful to them.”
Harris is widely rumored to be considering a run for Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination. She recently visited Iowa, one of the first primary states, and swing states such as Ohio, raising speculation that she’s building her national image before the election.