Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) on Thursday appeared to compare U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to the Ku Klux Klan during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to consider the nomination of Ronald Vitello to head the agency.
In a question posed to Vitiello, Harris, a likely Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, suggested that the public’s perception of ICE was creating fear and distrust, the same way the KKK did last century.
“Kamala Harris is trying to launch her 2020 campaign off of comparing ICE officers to the KKK, and it’s absolutely disgusting,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said.
Harris asked the nominee a string of questions regarding his 2015 tweet saying the Democratic Party was comparable to a “liberal-cratic” or “neo-Klanist” entity.
Vitiello’s tweet was in response to comments made by conservative radio host Mark Levin about the Democratic Party’s role in 20th-century segregation.
Vitiello apologized for making the comparison, saying “those are offensive words.”
Having secured his apology for violating the KKK version of Godwin’s Law, Harris went on to violate it herself in spectacular fashion.
“What is the history that would then make those words wrong?” Harris asked Vitiello.
Vitiello answered that the Klan was what we would consider a “domestic terrorist group” because “they tried to use fear and force to change the political environment.” He added that their motivation was “based on race and ethnicity.”
“Are you aware of the perception of many about how the power and the discretion at ICE is being used to enforce the laws and do you see any parallels?” she asked.
“I do not see any parallels,” Vitiello interjected, understanding Harris to mean parallels between ICE and the KKK.
“Are you aware that there’s a perception?” Kamala pressed.
“That puts ICE in the same category as the KKK… is that what you’re asking me?” he replied indignantly. “I see no parallel. I see none!”
“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?” Harris persisted. “Are you aware of that perception?”
“I do not see a parallel between the power and the authority that ICE has to do its job and the agents and officers who do it professionally and excellently with lots of compassion,” Vitiello replied.
“Sir, how can you be the head of an agency and be unaware of how your agency is perceived by certain communities?” Harris demanded.
“There’s a lot of perceptions in the media and in the public that are incorrect about the agency,” Vitiello shot back.
“But the perception exists,” Kamala insisted, adding that work should be done to correct the perception.
Rather than take the bait, Vitiello advocated for the ICE workforce, pointing out that they perform a “vital public safety mission” to protect the homeland. “More people need to know how valuable they are to the society,” he said.