Kamala Harris

Vice President of the United States

Kamala Harris is the first woman and person of color to hold the office of Vice President of the United States. Although she leads the administration’s diplomatic efforts to address root causes of migration from Central America, political opponents have frequently tried to tie her to the administration’s border and immigration woes. 

The daughter of a Jamaican immigrant father and an Indian immigrant mother, Harris is a first-generation American. After attending Howard University and obtaining a law degree from the University of California at Hastings, she began her public service as a deputy district attorney for Alameda County, which includes Oakland. She then served two terms as the district attorney for San Francisco before going on to become California’s attorney general in 2011. Five years later, she became only the second Black woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate, where her first floor speech included the declaration that “an undocumented immigrant is not a criminal.” Harris would later assert that illegal immigration is “a civil violation, not a crime.”

A prosecutor by trade, Harris is known for tough-on-crime positions (some of which she moderated or reversed ahead of her own presidential primary run), and for orchestrating large settlements between banks and homeowners in the wake of the 2007 housing crisis. But she also has a significant record on immigration: In 2010, as the San Francisco DA, she railed against an Arizona bill that would have required local law enforcement to act as federal immigration agents; and in 2012, as the state AG, she submitted a brief to the California Supreme Court in support of an undocumented immigrant seeking a law license.

As a representative of California, which has the highest number of DACA enrollees, Harris was outspoken on protecting DREAMers; she opposed a 2017 end-of-year spending bill because it did not include a fix for DACA. During her own primary run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Harris was relatively moderate on immigration, giving full-throated support for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. while at the same time pressing for strong border security, saying, “I believe in border security. We need to have adequate border controls.”

Harris’s official role is to lead the administration’s strategy to address the root causes of migration from Latin America, a job she’s tackled primarily through foreign diplomacy and by recruiting private corporations to invest in Northern Triangle countries. Yet Republicans have frequently tied Harris to the influx of migrants at the southern border by labeling her the administration’s “border czar,” a characterization she has struggled to distance herself from. At one point, she even had to correct President Biden on her role: while praising her to the Congressional Black Caucus, he said she would do “a hell of a job” on immigration, to which she responded, “Excuse me, it’s the Northern Triangle — not immigration.”


Harris’S IDEAS

  • Border Security

    Harris supports the federal government’s operational control of the border with Mexico, including increases in the number of Border Patrol agents, additional border barriers, aerial surveillance and radar technology.

  • Border Wall

    Harris refers to former President Trump’s wall on the entire southern border as a “vanity project” but has supported limited funding to construct portions of the wall as a component of a more comprehensive immigration reform package.

  • Detention

    In 2019, Harris proposed the Detention Oversight Not Expansion (or DONE) Act, which would freeze the growth of ICE detention facilities and prohibit the construction of new facilities. It would require the Department of Homeland Security to submit a report within one year outlining how detention could be cut by 50 percent from 2018 levels by using community-based alternatives to detention. The bill also would require more transparent reporting on detention center conditions. Harris has also promised to end the use of private detention facilities.

  • Immigration Courts

    Harris sponsored legislation to provide $3 million to nonprofits that provide children from Northern Triangle countries with legal representation. She also co-sponsored legislation that would provide legal counsel at government expense to undocumented immigrants in removal proceedings.

  • Undocumented Population

    As district attorney for San Francisco, Harris allowed undocumented immigrants to become clients of free legal clinics. She supports the use of executive action to establish a pathway to citizenship for the law-abiding undocumented immigrants who are already in the country.

  • ICE

    As a district attorney, Harris supported the idea of local law enforcement reporting undocumented minors to ICE. She has since been much more critical of how the agency carries out its work and has compared its use of “fear and intimidation” to tactics used by the KKK. While she does not support the Abolish ICE movement, she does support restructuring the agency and redistributing some of its duties to other government agencies.

  • DACA

    Harris has been a staunch advocate for giving permanent status to all DACA enrollees and for passage of the full DREAM Act.

  • Asylum & Refugees

    Harris criticized the Trump administration for seeking to block migrants from applying for asylum in the U.S. She was a co-sponsor of the Refugee Protection Act of 2019, which, among other things, set forth a plan to receive no fewer than 95,000 asylum seekers on an annual basis, reduce the use of detention for applicants, restore gang and domestic violence as viable reasons for asylum, and require legal representation for children and “particularly vulnerable individuals.”

  • Central America Policy

    In March 2021, President Biden assigned her to spearhead the administration’s diplomatic outreach to leaders from Central America and Mexico in an attempt to address root causes of migration. In this role, Harris has recruited 40 private corporations to invest $3.2 billion in the Northern Triangle.

  • Visas

    Harris supports legislation that would remove specific country caps on Green Cards and she wants to "make it easier for immigrants to access temporary work visas."

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