California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, a 2020 presidential hopeful, on Thursday attempted to draw comparisons between the public “perception” of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Ku Klux Klan.
In response, Harris was accused of trying to ignite her campaign by trashing ICE for political gain.
During a confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Harris pounced upon a 2015 tweet from Ronald Vitiello — the lifelong Border Patrol agent nominated by President Donald Trump to head ICE.
Vitiello’s tweet, for which he apologized, likened Democratic tactics to the KKK.
“What is the history that would then make those words wrong?” Harris asked.
“The Klan was what we could call today a domestic terrorist group,” Vitiello said.
Harris asked why the group would be labeled that way.
“Because they tried to use fear and force to change the political environment,” Vitiello said.
“And what was the motivation for the use of fear and force?” Harris said.
“It was based on race and ethnicity, ” Vitiello said.
Harris then closed in.
“And are you aware of the perception of many about how the power and discretion at ICE is being used to enforce the law and do you see any parallels?”
“I do not see any parallels between sworn officers and agents,” Vitiello said, before being cut off by Harris.
“I’m talking about perception,” Harris said.
“I do not see a parallel between what is constitutionally mandated as it relates to enforcing the law,” Vitiello responded. “I see no perception that puts ICE in the same category as the KKK.”
Harris continued to push.
“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.
RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tweeted that Harris “is trying to launch her 2020 campaign off of comparing ICE officers to the KKK, and it’s absolutely disgusting”
Kamala Harris is trying to launch her 2020 campaign off of comparing ICE officers to the KKK, and it’s absolutely disgusting. pic.twitter.com/l6DrpbbQ2k
— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) November 15, 2018
GOP spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany also called out Harris for her insinuations.
“What utter, complete & horrifying disrespect for our law enforcement officers,” she tweeted. “I get she’s auditioning for 2020, but come on…”
This is appalling. 2020 hopeful Kamala Harris just compared ICE to the KKK!
What utter, complete & horrifying disrespect for our law enforcement officers. I get she’s auditioning for 2020, but come on… https://t.co/JbHmG55cX1
— Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) November 15, 2018
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