From The Center for Immigration Studies

By Todd Bensman

AUSTIN, Texas — During the violent social justice upheavals of 2019-2020, Democratic primary candidate for President Sen. Kamala Harris told America exactly where she stood on illegal border immigration, no matter how she might spin it now that she is the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for president.

American voters should not forget the politically extreme positions she staked just a few years ago, as thousands of “Occupy ICE” hooligans were disrupting detention and deportation operations. “Abolish ICE” was the street chant as arson fires burned major cities and an AR-15-armed Antifa terrorist named Willem van Spronsen died in a fiery July 2019 attack on a Washington State ICE detention facility.

What American voters should remember about this period, now that they regard the border crisis as a top 2024 campaign issue, is that Harris went all-in with the most extreme agenda on border security in American history and has neither said nor acted once in any way contrary to those early positions, other than to tone down rhetoric while serving as vice president.

Taking Up the Extremist Cudgel

Just one week after ICE agents killed van Spronsen and found his manifesto demanding an end to corporate profiteering from private detention centers and their human suffering, Sen. Harris all but rewarded the attack with a tweet that mainstreamed the terrorist demand:


During a June 2019 televised primary debate, she reiterated that “I will get rid of the private detention centers.”

Harris was always at the forefront of Democratic primary contenders adopting the extreme immigration policy demands of a violent progressive movement high on the smoke of anti-police BLM arson, antifa attacks on Trump supporters, and Occupy ICE campfires. Indeed, Harris began messaging as her own the most fringe ideas about immigration and the border ever heard on the main American public square.

Abolish ICE. End all deportation and detention. Extend U.S. asylum access to all comers so they can stay and disappear. Grant citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants. Free healthcare to all. Stop the wall.

The van Spronsens of a border security abolitionist movement burgeoning among progressives at the time were pushing an extreme agenda driven by an ideology unchained from the Democratic Party basement to dismantle immigration enforcement as cruel and inhumane, a violation of human rights like Jim Crow laws and slavery.

They demanded the dismantling of ICE “concentration camps” full of detained latter-day Jews who this time were illegal-immigrant brown people, an end to deportation “death flights” home, the dismantling of ICE’s Nazi jack-booted brown shirts, abolition of laws deterring illegal immigration, and a southern border opened wide to anyone in the world who might feel like crossing it as an inalienable civil right.

Yes on “Abolish ICE” — and Immigration Law Enforcement with It

Harris went full throttle with the narrative that ICE agents she may one day lead were indeed the racist thugs everyone was saying they were.

“Certain communities saw ICE as comparable to the Ku Klux Klan for 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,” Harris accused during a Senate confirmation hearing of Trump’s nominee to lead ICE, Ronald Vitiello.

Then-Sen. Harris responded on MSNBC in 2019 to a question about abolishing ICE that the United States should “probably think about starting from scratch” on enforcing immigration laws, while a spokesperson for Harris said the senator was weighing “a complete overhaul of the agency, mission, culture, operations”.

None of this could be said to be opportunistic at the time, either. In 2015, while serving as California’s Attorney General, Harris told the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles that “An undocumented immigrant is not a criminal. I know what a criminal looks like who’s committing a crime. An undocumented immigrant is not a criminal.”

In fact, illegally crossing the southern border is a federal misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison for a first offense and a felony on subsequent violations.

She was one of the candidates who raised a hand at another debate when asked if she supported decriminalizing illegal crossings and when asked if she would give free healthcare to illegal immigrants.

In a 2019 interview with National Public Radio, candidate Harris expressed a willingness as president to declare all illegal border-crossers refugees based on unconfirmable claims of political violence, even if that meant ignoring the law, despite well-known reporting that many let in on such claims disappear into the nation’s illegal immigrant population:

I disagree with any policy that would turn America’s back on people who are fleeing harm. I frankly believe that it is contrary to everything that we have symbolically and actually said we stand for. And so, I would not enforce a law that would reject people and turn them away without giving them a fair and due process to determine if we should give them asylum and refuge. (Emphasis added.)

Harris’ presidential campaign website took a page from Antifa and Black Lives Matter ideology handbooks about dismantling detention and deportation infrastructure, declaring her belief that “[W]e must fundamentally overhaul our immigration enforcement policies and practices — they are cruel and out of control.” She promised to “increase oversight” of agencies like the U.S. Border Patrol were she to be elected.

Expect claims from Harris supporters that, well, this was a primary campaign intended to appeal to the party base and she didn’t really mean any of it.

That’s not believable if Wall Street Journal reporting this week is accurate. People who have worked with Harris over the years told the Journal she only takes up a policy idea after “detailed deliberations … and has been reluctant to always endorse immediate, sweeping policy changes” before achieving full understanding.

“She really wants to understand what the data and evidence is to support a potential course of action,” Jill Habig, who worked for Harris in different roles over the years, is quoted saying. “She really wants to understand not just the idea in theory, but how it’s actually going to work in practice.”

Toning Down in High Office in Favor of Denialism and Gaslighting

Harris went on the down-low about her policy views after becoming vice president, but repeatedly denied a mass migration crisis was underway at the southern border, refusing to visit there, and, when she finally did under pressure, staying indoors in controlled environments with the television cameras.

When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sent some illegal immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard to make a political point in September 2022, Harris was quoted insisting the administration’s policies had “closed” the border when, in fact, hundreds of thousands had just crossed.

Local TV quoted one of the Martha’s Vineyard immigrants refuting the vice president’s absurd claim. “It’s open, not closed. The border is open,” the gentleman responded in English when asked about Harris’ claim that it was closed. “Everybody believes the border is open. It’s open because … we entered! We come in. Free. No problem.”

As vice president, Harris has regularly blamed “root causes” and “climate change” for the vast influx that began right after she and Biden took office and implemented an extreme vision straight from the burning streets of blue cities. Immigration was all so very “complex”, Harris explained during a state visit to Central America to get the strategy up and running.

During an April 2021 roundtable discussion Harris said:

We are looking at extensive storm damage because of extreme climate. We’re looking at drought in an area in a region where agriculture is one of the most traditionally important bases for their economy. We’re looking at what’s happening in terms of food scarcity as a result of that and in fact, incredible food insecurity, which we used to call hunger, food insecurity.

Whatever the Democratic Party nominee might float about her plans for border security over the next four months, Americans concerned about what she and Biden have done at the border should know that, in her case, past definitely is prologue.