Vice President Kamala Harris, recently tasked by President Joe Biden with handling the migration surge at the U.S.-Mexico border, has a record on immigration that includes opposing additional physical barriers on the border, advocating closure of detention centers that house migrants, sympathetically citing perceived parallels between ICE and the Ku Klux Klan, and offering a path to citizenship for all illegal immigrants living the country.
As a presidential candidate, Harris also supported decriminalizing illegally crossing the border by making it only a civil offense. Harris defended her position of making border crossings a civil penalty rather than a crime during an appearance on “The View” as a presidential candidate.
“It should be a civil enforcement issue, but not a criminal enforcement issue,” she said.
Harris also supported providing healthcare coverage for illegal immigrants in the U.S..
Critics of these policy positions say they serve as pull factors for individuals to enter the U.S. illegally.
In 2018, Harris, a California Democrat, co-sponsored the DONE Act, which would prohibit federal funds from building or expanding immigration detention facilities and instead utilize “community-based” solutions.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, Harris advocated closing immigrant detention centers that house migrants who cross the border but did not specify what system she wanted to install in place of them.
While serving in the Senate starting in 2017, Harris supported legal status for children who were brought to the U.S. by their parents illegally and advocated protecting their parents from deportation.
Harris also supported comprehensive immigration reform that would offer a path to citizenship for the approximately 12 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S.
Currently, about 450 miles of the 2,000-mile southern border contains some kind of physical barrier. Former President Donald Trump supported constructing additional border wall along open stretches of the U.S.-Mexico border. Harris referred to Trump’s border wall plans as a “vanity project.”
“Let’s get this straight: Billions of dollars for a border wall is a waste of money,” she tweeted. “American taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for the President’s vanity project. We simply don’t need it.”
Harris did not support abolishing ICE but said the federal government should start over from “scratch” when it comes to the role of that particular agency.
“I think there’s no question that we’ve got to critically reexamine ICE and its role and the way that it is being administered and the work it is doing,” Harris said in 2018. “And we need to probably think about starting from scratch.”
In 2018, Harris, a former member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, highlighted perceived parallels between ICE and the KKK during her questioning of Ronald Vitiello, Trump’s nominee to lead ICE, at a Senate confirmation hearing.
As attorney general in California, Harris supported a policy that reported illegal immigrants arrested as juveniles to ICE. Her presidential campaign said in a statement that the policy could have been implemented “more fairly.”