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Harris’s new communications director apologizes for years-old tweets about ‘undocumented folks’

In 2010 tweets, Jamal Simmons asked what stopped federal immigration agents from arresting two undocumented immigrants who appeared on television

Vice President Harris, Jan. 6, 2022. (Pete Marovich/Bloomberg)

Vice President Harris’s new communications director Jamal Simmons apologized Friday for years-old tweets in which he asked why immigration officials did not detain “undocumented folks.”

In a series of tweets, posted in November 2010, Simmons said he’d seen two undocumented immigrants talking on MSNBC and asked someone to explain “why [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] is not picking them up?”

In a second tweet, Simmons replied to another Twitter user that he was not “suggesting” that ICE agents should pick up the two undocumented immigrants, he just thought it was odd that one “can go on TV & admit breaking law & not be arrested.”

“I’ll try this again: Just saw 2 undocumented folks talking on MSNBC and have serious legal question. Why wouldn’t ICE pick them up?” Simmons asked in a third tweet soon after, attempting to clear up his first question.

Simmons apologized for his 2010 comments and said that, as a pundit, he tweeted and spoke “A LOT.”

“At times I’ve been sarcastic, unclear or plainly missed the mark,” he wrote in a series of tweets. “I apologize for offending ppl who care as much as I do about making America the best, multiethnic, diverse democracy+I’ll rep the Biden-Harris admin w/humility, sincerity+respect.”

Simmons, a longtime Democratic aide who worked as a press assistant on Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, has been a political commentator for networks including CNN, MSNBC and NPR. His three 2010 posts resurfaced on Friday, a day after it was announced that he’d been named Harris’s new communications director, replacing Ashley Etienne, who in November announced that she was leaving the Biden administration “to pursue other opportunities.”

In a second tweet Friday, Simmons attempted to clear the record by saying he’s “never advocated for, nor believed that Dreamers should be targeted by ICE agents.”

“Dreamers” is the term used to describe immigrants living in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was designed to protect them from deportation.

“I’ve been for DACA + comprehensive immigration reform for years,” Simmons tweeted. “Frankly, it’s depressing ppl can forget about every other thing I’ve said in public on this bc of bad tweets.”

When asked about Simmons’s tweets Friday, a spokeswoman for Harris’s office forwarded his statement and attached a tweet by immigrant rights activist Jose Antonio Vargas, a former Washington Post reporter and founder of Define American, a pro-immigrant media advocacy organization.

“I was just on stage with [Simmons] in DC last month talking about Dreamers, DACA and how we MUST support immigrants,” Vargas said. “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 [former Trump adviser Stephen Miller] leads.”

Vargas was referring to another tweet by Miller, who led Trump’s anti-immigrant policies during his time in the White House. In it, Miller said he agreed with Simmons’s 2010 tweet, adding that if “you break into our nation, there must be deportation.”

Harris and her office lead the Biden administration’s efforts to address the root causes of migration from Central America’s Northern Triangle. Over the last year, she has faced criticism over her handling of the daunting task.