Jamal Simmons: Kamala Harris’ aide meeting with Hispanic Caucus after row over tweets about undocumented immigrants

The Independent
The Independent

Vice President Kamala Harris’ new communications director, Jamal Simmons, will meet with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in hopes of quelling controversy over a decade-old tweet that has angered immigrations rights advocates in the days since he was named to Ms Harris’ staff.

A White House official told The Independent that Mr Simmons’ meeting with the lawmakers will take place on Thursday and was “mutually agreed upon” by both the veteran Democratic operative and the Hispanic Caucus.

Mr Simmons, who started as Ms Harris’ top communicator last week, was brought on to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Ashley Etienne, the former aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who served as Ms Harris’ communications director for the first 10 months of the administration, and joined the vice president staff just one week after Symone Sanders, Ms Harris’ ex-senior adviser and chief spokesperson, decamped to MSNBC to begin hosting a weekly program on the cable network.

Though his hiring was meant bring a semblance of stability to the vice president’s office after the mini-exodus of top aides amid negative headlines, immigration activists began stirring the pot shortly after his new role was announced by resurfacing a tweet he’d posted in November 2010.

The offending missive referred to a pair of undocumented immigrants he’d seen making an appearance on MSNBC and asked his followers to explain why Immigrations and Customs Enforcement was not arresting them. That subject matter is particularly sensitive for Mr Simmons’ new role because Ms Harris has been given the task of addressing “root causes” of migration from south and central America.

One of the two undocumented immigrants who appeared in the television segment Mr Simmons referred to, RAICES Texas chief advocacy officer Erika Andiola, took to Twitter to defend Mr Harris after speaking with him by phone.

Ms Andiola said Mr Simmons had apologised for the tweet and she had accepted the apology.

She said he explained to her 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”.

“He explained that perhaps his question could have been, ‘what lawyer advised these folks to go on TV and tell people they are undocumented?. In 2010, it wasn't as common to see folks on TV telling the world our status. It became normal because of our courage and organizing,” she added.

In a tweet of his own, Mr Simmons said he apologised “for offending ppl who care as much as I do about making America the best, multiethnic, diverse democracy” and would represent the administration “with humility, sincerity and respect”.

He added that he has “never advocated for, nor believed that Dreamers should be targeted by Ice agents,” using a term for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children by their parents.

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