President Joe Biden has handed Vice President Kamala Harris the escalating border crisis to deal with. But before the oversight assignment, Harris had high expectations for the leadership role throughout Trump's tenure, criticizing the former administration's strict immigration policies.
In June 2018, reporters at an animated press conference confronted then-Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. Across social media, Harris piled on, calling for the Homeland Security secretary to resign.
"Nielsen misled the American public and implemented and defended the inhumane policy of separation of children and parents," Harris tweeted at the time, linking an NPR article titled: "When The White House Can't Be Believed." The piece argued that the essay "isn't about spin" or "differing opinions," but about "credibility at the highest levels of our government."
From the White House lectern, Nielsen asserted that critics have offered just one countermeasure: open borders, "the quick release of all illegal alien families and the decision not to enforce our laws." The policy would be "disastrous," she noted.
One year later when Nielsen left her position, Democrats were quick to respond to the move online, including Harris. Just after the news broke of Nielson's departure, the 2020 presidential candidate echoed the same sentiments from before, adding on Twitter: "It was long past time for her to go."
Harris also sparked backlash in 2018 when she compared Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to the Ku Klux Klan. At the Capitol Hill hearing, Harris interrogated Trump's nominee to head ICE, claiming that the public views the law enforcement entity as yet another proliferator of "fear and intimidation" among immigrant communities just like the KKK.
"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 prompted, attempting to convince former ICE acting director Ronald Vitiello to compare the federal agency to the KKK and browbeat an admittance.
Harris once indicated she was in favor of decriminalizing illegal border crossings, raising her hand during the June 2019 primary debate when all of the contenders were asked if any Democratic hopeful supported decriminalization of illegal entry.
When speaking to television personality Megan McCain on The View one month later, Harris backtracked the stance then reversed course, contradicting her initial denial: "We're not going to treat people who are undocumented cross the border as criminals." At the conclusion of the rapid flip-flop, Harris confirmed that the crime should be an offense—however civil, not criminal.
Just three years ago, Harris led the charge at America's southern border. The high-profile lawmaker protested at immigration shelters and advocated for expanded oversight of detention centers. Seeking to distinguish herself within the Democratic Party, she was one of just three Democrats to oppose the compromise that would have funded the border wall in exchange for pathways to citizenship for Dreamers brought into the country as children.
On the campaign trail, Harris pushed for the usage of executive powers to reinstate and expand the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. President Donald Trump had pivoted to terminate the program in 2017, but federal courts had blocked the phaseout. Meanwhile, the senator's plan released in June 2019 championed the use of executive authority to offer deportation relief and work permits to an estimated 6 million illegal immigrants.
Harris will now serve as the diplomatic liaison with Mexico and the "Northern Triangle" nations of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. She will be the point person on immigration, conducting negotiations with Central American leaders.