Kamala Harris’ communications director, Jamal Simmons, to meet with Hispanic caucus over tweets

Simmons came under fire earlier this month after his past tweets, asking why two undocumented immigrants who appeared on MSNBC weren't being picked up by ICE, resurfaced.

The man recently tapped to serve as Vice President Kamala Harris‘ new communications director is meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Thursday to discuss their concerns about some of his old tweets.

The Harris White House team announced on Jan. 6 that veteran Democratic Communications Aide Jamal Simmons would be joining their staff, according to The Hill. Simmons came under fire a day later after a series of his controversial tweets about undocumented immigrants resurfaced.

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Jamal Simmons speaks onstage at the Elections 2016: The Wild Ride to the White House panel on the Times Center Stage during 2016 Advertising Week on Sept. 27, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images for Advertising Week New York)

The November 29, 2010 tweets from Simmons questioned why two undocumented immigrants he saw speaking on MSNBC that day weren’t being arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.

“Just saw 2 undocumented folks talking on MSNBC. One Law student the other a protester. Can someone explain why ICE is not picking them up?” Simmons wrote in one tweet.

In a subsequent reply to another Twitter user, Simmons clarified that he wasn’t “suggesting” ICE agents should pick up the two MSNBC guests.

“Just seems odd u can go on TV & admit breaking law & not be arrested,” he tweeted.

The old tweets were brought to light by Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel for the American Immigration Council, on Jan. 7 after news broke about Simmons’ new leadership role a day earlier.

“I strongly hope he’s apologized for this publicly,” Reichlin-Melnick said while retweeting one of Simmons’ 2010 tweets. “His positions a decade ago were fairly typical of a lot of Democrats; harsh border controls and employer sanctions but a desire to pass some kind of immigration reform,” Reichlin-Melnick continued. “That is still the mainstream position for many even after years of proof that harsh border controls don’t work.”

Simmons apologized for his past remarks after they resurfaced on Jan. 7, but not before getting a co-sign from controversial former Trump White House Senior Policy Advisor Stephen Miller.

Miller is the staunch anti-illegal immigration political strategist who also served as the architect of former President Donald Trump‘s notorious family separation border policy.

“I agree with @JamalSimmons,” Miller tweeted. “If you break into our nation there must be deportation.”

Simmons tried again to clarify his position on immigration in subsequent tweets later that afternoon.

“For the record, I’ve never advocated for, nor believed that Dreamers should be targeted by ICE agents,” he tweeted. “I’ve been for DACA + comprehensive immigration reform for years. Frankly, it’s depressing ppl can forget about every other thing I’ve said in public on this bc of bad tweets.”

Immigrant rights activist Jose Antonio Vargas defended Simmons from criticism after Miller’s endorsement.

“I was just on stage with @JamalSimmons in DC last month talking about Dreamers, DACA and we how we MUST support immigrants,” Vargas tweeted. “I promise you he never called ICE. He’s a solid ally, and he’s a friend. Don’t get sucked in by the right-wing outrage machine that @StephenM leads.”

House Homeland Security Hearing Held To Examine Worldwide Threats
House Homeland Security Committee member Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA) questions witnesses during a hearing on ‘worldwide threats to the homeland’ in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on Sept. 17, 2020. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

So far, it doesn’t appear the added context has satisfied some Hispanic members of Congress scheduled to meet with Simmons later this week.

U.S. Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) told The Hill on Monday that he won’t attend the Hispanic Caucus’ virtual meeting with Simmons on Thursday.

“The deep concern to me is this may show his true disposition when it comes to immigration,” Correa said. “A meeting is not going to change my mind or give me peace of mind one way or the other.”

The lawmaker recently told Axios that Simmons’ previous remarks were “beyond stunning.”

“Words cannot describe my feelings,” Correa said. “Is he a Trumper? That’s a question I might ask him. … I am being public about it, because he was public. He was honest. And I am being honest. And that’s what the public deserves.”

One of the undocumented immigrants Simmons saw on MSNBC almost 12 years ago was Erika Andiola, who now serves as chief advocacy officer for the Texas division of the Refugee And Immigration Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES).

Andiola also came to Simmons’ defense on Jan. 8.

“Jamal committed to be an ally in his role,” she tweeted. “He acknowledged that the tweet was hurtful in the way it was written & explained that his intention was not to call for ICE to pick us up, but to understand the legality of how [undocumented] folks were on TV without possible legal consequences.”

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