During her first official speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) quoted several pro-immigrant comments by her Republican colleagues and challenged them to “measure up” to their words.
Harris spent the bulk of her remarks challenging President Donald Trump’s temporary bans on all refugees and visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, as well as his executive orders vowing to crack down on undocumented immigrants and the communities that shield them from deportation. Near the end of her speech, she noted the importance of bipartisanship in challenging these policies, and cited the words of three GOP senators ― Ted Cruz (Texas), Rand Paul (Ky.) and John McCain (Ariz.) ― to make her point.
“I know, having spent now a few weeks in this chamber, that we have good men and women on both sides of the aisle, men and women who believe deeply in our immigrant communities and who understand that nationalism and patriotism are not the same thing,” she said.
She then quoted Cruz, whose father immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba, as saying, “It’s an enormous blessing to be the child of an immigrant who fled oppression because you realize how fragile liberty is and how easily it can be taken away.”
Harris cited Paul’s 2013 speech at Howard University, during which he pressed the importance of enforcing “constitutional rights of all Americans ― rich and poor, immigrant and native, black and white.”
She also quoted McCain’s 2013 comments in favor of immigration reform, during which he said undocumented immigrants shouldn’t be “condemned forever to a twilight status.”
“I say we must measure up to our words and fight for our ideals, because the critical hour is upon us,” she concluded.
Harris was elected to the Senate last November and has quickly emerged as one of Trump’s most prominent adversaries in the upper chamber. She’s spoken out against several of Trump’s Cabinet nominees, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and last month joined protesters outside the White House in demonstrating against Trump’s Muslim ban.
During her speech, Harris cited her law enforcement background ― she spent years as a prosecutor prior to serving as California’s attorney general ― while arguing that Trump’s actions make the country less safe.
“These executive actions present a real threat to our public safety,” she said. “I know what a crime looks like, and I will tell you that an undocumented immigrant is not a criminal.”
She specifically condemned recent immigration raids across the country, including the arrest of a young man in Seattle who was brought to the U.S. illegally as a child, and was protected under former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protected children whose parents illegally brought them to the U.S. from deportation.
“The U.S. cannot go back on our promise to these kids and their families,” she said.
She also railed against the Muslim ban, saying it “may as well have been hatched in the basement headquarters of ISIS.” Lawmakers have argued that the extremist group could now include the ban in its propaganda.
“We handed them a tool of recruitment to use against us,” she said.