Loading the player…
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.
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.
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.”
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.) 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.”
Representatives for Simmons did not immediately respond on Tuesday to a request for comment from theGrio.
Have you subscribed to theGrio’s podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!
TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!
Loading the player…