Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas.
“We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
Trump’s plan, announced earlier in the day, would prioritize high-skilled workers over those who already have relatives in the country when determining who receives green cards.
Harris criticized the proposal, which Democratic leaders have vowed to fight, saying that Americans routinely celebrate a “unified culture” and the U.S. Constitution guarantees equality for all people.
“Not, oh, if you come from this place, you might only have a certain number of points, and if you come from that place, you might have a different number of points,” she said.
In a brief speech inside Orchid Vietnamese Restaurant organized by One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit that advocates for Asian and Pacific Islander representation in elected offices, Harris played up her own heritage.
The first South Asian-American U.S. senator in history — her mother is Indian, her father is Jamaican — Harris said breaking barriers was more than about personal achievement as she eyed becoming the first woman commander in chief.
“It’s about making a statement about who can do what and redefining images about who can do what and how they do it,” she said.
Trump and others have “perverted” the issue of immigration, Harris added, as she echoed her call for pathway to citizenship. She noted how as California attorney general she had alerted county sheriffs that they weren’t required to comply with detainer requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“It has the effect of that domestic violence victim, that rape victim, who I want to be able to run in the street and wave down a patrol officer for help,” Harris said. “She may not do that if she thinks the consequence is that she’ll be deported especially if she has children.”
Asked what set her apart from a crowded field of Democratic presidential contenders, Harris, 54, pointed to her career as a prosecutor and experience as attorney general, among other things.
“We are going to need someone on that stage who has a proven ability to be able to prosecute a case against the policies of this administration,” she said, clarifying that one of those policies was child-family separation at the border. “I know how to do that.”
Harris wrapped up on an uplifting note, suggesting that the vast majority of Americans have more in common than what makes them different despite attempts, she said, by Trump and others to divide the country.
The message was similar later in the afternoon when Harris spoke to Latinx leaders, a gender-neutral reference to Latin Americans, at Doña Maria Tamales Restaurant in downtown Las Vegas. Yet her approach was more fiery, casting next year’s election as “a fight for the soul of our country.”
She also touched on more tenets of her campaign, including a $6,000 tax credit to families making less than $100,000 a year and a plan to provide Nevada teachers with $15,000 raises.