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Vice President Kamala Harris’ new communications director apologized Friday after a 2010 tweet reemerged in which he asked why illegal immigrants appearing on television were not arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“As a pundit for much of my career I have tweeted a lot and spoken out on public issues. Sometimes I have been sarcastic, unclear, or just plainly missed the mark,” Jamal Simmons said in a statement.
“I sincerely apologize for offending those who care as much as I do about making America the best, multi-ethnic, diverse democracy it can be,” he said. “I know the role I am taking on is to represent the Biden-Harris administration, and I will do so with humility, sincerity and respect.”
Jamal Simmons is set to be named the new communications director for Harris, replacing Ashley Etienne, who left in December, Fox News has confirmed.
While Simmons did not explicitly mention a specific tweet, it came after a newly resurfaced tweet from 2010 had sparked controversy from some immigration activists.
In the tweet, Simmons said that he “just saw 2 undocumented folks talking on MSNBC. One Law student the other a protester.”
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
“Can someone explain why ICE is not picking them up?” he asked
He subsequently clarified that he was not suggested ICE arrest them: “Just seems off u can go on TV & admit breaking law & not be arrested.”
Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, had tweeted earlier Friday: “I strongly hope he’s apologized for this publicly.” He also accused Simmons of using “bigoted terms” in reference to another tweet in which Simmons spoke of “illegals.”
Reichlin-Melnick later clarified that, rather than a public apology, “a recommitment to immigrant rights might help; and maybe a chat with those two advocates!”
Astrid Silva, founder of “Dream Big Nevada” tweeted that while people “are able to make mistakes” there should also be “firm conversation on if @JamalSimmons continued to have this sentiment, if he does, he should not be in this position at all.”
Meanwhile, former Trump aide and immigration hawk Stephen Miller said he agreed with Simmons’ comments: “If you break into our nation there must be deportation.”
The tweets were not the only eyebrow raising tweets that Simmons had sent out in his previous role as a pundit.
“Trump’s fatally ill-managed Coronavirus response seems to have turned voters off to him the way Katrina destroyed Bush’s political reputation, but pushing a janky science vaccine into the public for political purposes would turn incompetent culpability into intentional harm,” he tweeted in September 2020.
During the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, Simmons warned that then-candidate Biden shouldn’t get “too comfortable” with the Black vote.
“I think #JoeBiden’s heart is in the right place but I just heard the perfect summation of his position,” he tweeted in May 2020. “’Black ppl are happy to have Biden at the cookout but he should remember he didn’t get the original invitation on his own. He was a plus one.’ Don’t get too comfortable.”