Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) said Monday he won’t attend a meeting between congressional Hispanic Democrats and Vice President Harris’s new communications director, Jamal Simmons.
Thursday’s virtual meeting is intended to defuse tensions between Simmons and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) over decade-old tweets where Harris’s new aide apparently called for the deportation of undocumented activists who revealed their immigration status live on MSNBC.
“The deep concern to me is this may show his true disposition when it comes to immigration. That’s what my concern is. A meeting is not going to change my mind or give me peace of mind one way or the other,” Correa told The Hill.
Shortly after the tweets were resurfaced, Simmons tweeted an apology for “offending ppl who care as much as I do about making America the best, multiethnic, diverse democracy.”
Simmons has privately discussed his tweets with some members of the CHC, telling them his offending tweets were poorly worded and not representative of his positions on immigration now or at the time he wrote them.
In one 2010 tweet, Simmons asked why Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was not detaining undocumented immigrants who revealed their status on live TV.
At the time, it was uncommon for undocumented immigrants to out themselves publicly, for fear of prosecution and deportation.
In conversations with members, Simmons has said the tweets in question were poorly worded but were written with the intent of illustrating the legal jeopardy that undocumented activists put themselves in by publicly admitting their undocumented status.
A number of prominent figures in the immigrant rights space came out to defend Simmons, a well-known progressive activist and journalist who’s been vocal on diversity issues.
José Antonio Vargas, a journalist who was among the first to publicly announce his undocumented status, earlier this month came out in defense of Simmons, saying “he’s a solid ally, and he’s a friend.”
Chuck Rocha, the architect of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) successful Latino outreach campaign, said Simmons “has always advocated for our community and he will be a great addition to this administration.”
Simmons also called Erika Andiola, who was one of the activists who appeared on MSNBC, prompting the original offending tweet.
Andiola earlier this month tweeted about the call, saying she accepted his apology and believes Simmons is “committed to be an ally in his role.”
Still, Simmons touched a third rail of immigrant politics by making such a casual reference to ICE arrests.
Correa, who has been one of the most vocal proponents of immigration reform this Congress, spurned the idea of a formal meeting to discuss the tweets, saying he’d rather see action than discuss decade-old statements on immigration.
“Everybody changes. I think Mr. Simmons, like I, we all change our predisposition, our perspective on issues and you know what, I think actions speak louder than words,” said Correa.
The meeting, confirmed by the CHC and Harris’s office, will take place during the CHC’s weekly members meeting.