PLAYER PROFILE

Kamala Harris

2020 Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee | U.S. Senator from California

On August 11, Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, chose Kamala Harris to join his ticket as the vice presidential nominee. She is the first woman of color to carry this banner for a major party. Her selection as Biden’s running mate assures she will continue to be a central figure in the country’s immigration debate.

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 has been 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 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.” Her position on many essential immigration issues will undoubtedly come into sharper focus as the November election draws nearer.

SOURCES:

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 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

    Harris has criticized the Trump administration for seeking to block refugees 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

    Harris has advocated re-starting direct assistance to the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala that was terminated by the Trump administration. In her view such action created a serious risk to our national security and undercut efforts to address the conditions driving migration to the U.S.

  • 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."