Political pundit and career Democratic communications aide, Jamal Simmons, was named Vice President Kamala Harris‘ communications director on Thursday, January 6, and not long after, he came under fire for a number of tweets that were perceived as being anti-immigration. Although Vice President Harris has yet to address the concerns of individuals who’ve read the tweets, Simmons has since apologized.
His tweets against the “undocumented” are especially problematic considering that one of the key objectives of the Biden-Harris administration is immigration reform that will make it easier for immigrants to obtain U.S. citizenship, as well as to uphold DACA. Plus one of the VP’s roles in the White House is to act as a diplomat to Central America. In the year since Biden and Harris took office, they have been widely criticized by progressives for not doing enough to reverse former President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration policies.
The tweets in question date back to the year 2010, and have garnered attention from both Democrats and Republicans. “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?,” reads the first tweet from November 2010, which did not stir up a lot of attention at the time, but as of January 10, now has over 300 retweets and a slew of comments.
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?
— Jamal Simmons (@JamalSimmons) November 29, 2010
At the time, Simmons doubled down on his criticism by tweeting a second time, just 10 minutes after the first tweet, “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?,” seemingly in search of an actual response from ICE or other law enforcement officials. In response, Twitter user, johnvmoore, tweeted Simmons, “what is up with your comment about the undocumented? How is that even productive? Where do you stand?,” to which Simmons replied, “We shld harden borders & ease visas/find ways to bring undocumented into legal status/punish employers. My? was common sense one.”
@johnvmoore We shld harden borders & ease visas/find ways to bring undocumented into legal status/punish employers. My? was common sense one
— Jamal Simmons (@JamalSimmons) November 29, 2010
After the tweets resurfaced on social media, many Americans, from both political parties commented on, retweeted and shared the old tweets, both criticizing and agreeing with Simmons. Many called out Vice President Harris for selecting someone with his views on immigration. Following the backlash, Simmons issued an apology on Twitter:
“As a pundit I tweeted+spoke A LOT. At times I’ve been sarcastic, unclear or plainly missed the mark. 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 tweeted on January 7.
As a pundit I tweeted+spoke A LOT. At times I've been sarcastic, unclear or plainly missed the mark. 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.
— Jamal Simmons (@JamalSimmons) January 7, 2022
“For the record, I’ve never advocated for, nor believed that Dreamers should be targeted by ICE agents. 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,” he continued several hours later, appearing to attempt damage control.
Then, in a very interesting turn of events, one of the very immigrants that he was referring to in the original 2010 tweets got involved in the conversation. Chief Advocacy Officer for RAICES Texas Erika Andiola explained that on January 8, Simmons called her directly to apologize.
“Jamal committed to be an ally in his role. 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 undocu folks were on TV without possible legal consequences,” she tweeted.
“He explained that perhaps his question could have been, “what lawyer advised these folks to go on TV and tell people they are undocumented?”. In 2010, it wasn’t as common to see folks on TV telling the world our status. It became normal because of our courage and organizing,” she continued, going on to list the reasons she offered Simmons her forgiveness and has committed to work with him throughout his tenure as the communications director to the vice president.
4. Lastly, I said this before and I will say it again. Yes, I can join many of you and cancel Jamal. But I do truly value redemption, and after all the convos I've had (in the real world, not twitter), I made a decision that felt good in my heart. If I was wrong, time will tell.
— Erika Andiola (@ErikaAndiola) January 8, 2022
While many can understand Andiola’s explanation and willingness to forgive and possibly even join her in giving Simmons another chance, things have only gotten stickier since then. Additional social media posts from Simmons have continued to surface over the past couple of days, in addition to proof that he donated to Republican Senator Rand Paul’s presidential campaign in 2015, leading people to further question Vice President Harris’ appointment.
Back in July 2019, he seemed to harshly criticize the election campaigns of both President Biden and Vice President Harris on Facebook, saying, “Prior to the debate I had been having bad feelings about the Harris campaign. It seemed listless, unfocused. These lackluster fundraising totals are not a surprise. I’m curious to see how this changes over the summer, now that Kamala’s poll numbers have increased and Biden seems more like a winged bird than the inevitable nominee.”
And now, it has come to the attention of the public that on multiple occasions, Simmons, referred to former President George W. Bush, as an “illegitimate president,” and accused him of stealing the presidency from Al Gore, most recently after Joe Biden’s inauguration in January 2021.
The Trump vs Biden equivalency is wrong. Trump was an anti-Democratic huckster grifting the country while unleashing our demons. Biden is the #Democratic version of McCain – a good man I disagreed with. I thought W stole the 2000 elex but I still stood when he entered a room. https://t.co/d2xHkgvCZh
— Jamal Simmons (@JamalSimmons) January 21, 2021
Altogether, Simmons’ social media comments have served to quickly and decisively paint him as a controversial figure. Vice President Harris has been attempting to fill a number of positions among her staff in the wake of several of her employees resigning over the past few months, leading some analysts to question her leadership style and the culture that has developed in her office.
However, the White House maintains that it’s simply the nature of things. “I think at a certain point it’s time to have other people serve in these jobs and roles, and have this front seat to history. And I’m hopeful that part of what I can do in this job is help build that up and help give people opportunity, and lift up some new voices and faces,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, according to The Washington Post.