Aug 11, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Kamala Harris: Trump's immigration raids are part of a "campaign of terror"

2020 candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday that President Trump's immigration raids are part of a "campaign of terror" to make whole populations of Hispanic Americans "afraid."

CHUCK TODD: "Do you think Hispanics feel targeted right now?"
HARRIS: "I do."
TODD: "Can he say, can he say anything, at this point, to reassure Hispanic Americans?"
HARRIS: "I don't think it would be authentic if he did. And I think people are smart enough to know that. You know, there's an old saying, ‘Judge me by my actions, not my words.’ And his actions have been to divide, to vilify, to, to do what is contrary to who we are as Americans, which is to say it's us versus them. As opposed to a president who uses the power of that microphone in a way that is about unifying and lifting up, as opposed to beating down. That's what this president does. He beats people down. And I will tell you, that’s the sign of a coward."

Context: 680 immigrants were arrested Wednesday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents at 7 food processing plants in small towns in Mississippi —possibly the largest ICE workplace raids in more than a decade, and likely the biggest for any single state, per AP.

The other side: In an interview with acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, Todd asked why the agency went after the immigrants in these process plants and not the employers who hired potentially undocumented workers in the first place. McAleenan’s defense was that the investigation was ongoing, and he admitted that the timing of the raid after the El Paso shooting was "unfortunate."

"This is a criminal investigation of the employers who are exploiting an undocumented workforce and skirting our laws. Now, when you do an operation at a work site, you can't ignore people that are there without the proper permission to be in the United States. You don't know who they are."

The big picture: Harris spoke more broadly during the interview about racism in America and what President Trump has done to "fan the flames" of bigotry. She said that labeling Trump a white nationalist or a racist, as a number of her fellow 2020 Democrats have done, overlooks the reality that racism was present in America before Trump was elected and will be present after.

  • "Certainly, we must point out and never condone anyone who uses their power in a way that fans it. But the reality is that these are forms of hate that are not new to our country. ... And so I believe that the conversation has to be about how we are going to speak truth about the history, and then address it."
  • Harris, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, went on to say that Russia's interference in the 2016 election exposed race as "America's Achilles' heel" and that racism has since become a true national security issue.

Go deeper: Trump allies welcome "white supremacist" charge from 2020 Democrats

Go deeper