Congressional Group Wants Answers from Kamala Harris' New Communications Director Over Old Tweets

"I apologize for offending ppl who care as much as I do about making America the best, multiethnic, diverse democracy," Jamal Simmons said last week

Jamal Simmons speak onstage at the Elections 2016: The Wild Ride to the White House panel on the Times Center Stage during 2016 Advertising Week New York on September 27, 2016 in New York City.
Jamal Simmons. Photo: John Lamparski/Getty

Vice President Kamala Harris' incoming communications director is facing questions regarding resurfaced, years-old tweets in which he called for an "undocumented" immigrant to be deported.

The posts in question by Jamal Simmons — a former Democratic communications aide and media contributor — were from in 2010 and referenced an MSNBC interview.

"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?" Simmons wrote on Twitter.

Simmons, 50, later tried to clarify, writing in another 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?"

Now, lawmakers with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus will meet with Simmons to discuss the past tweets in a videoconference on Thursday.

California Rep. Lou Correa, a member of the caucus, tells PEOPLE he doesn't plan to attend the conference with Simmons, saying, "You can't candy-coat this. It's just a bad situation."

Correa says that, in addition to being offensive, the tweets and ensuing controversy could hinder Simmons' ability to effectively communicate with the immigrant community, just months after Harris was tapped by President Joe Biden as the administration's leader on efforts to address migration.

"President Biden made the commitment to bring us immigration reform," says Correa, a Democrat. "And yet you have this member in the highest levels [of government] that has a predisposition on immigration.

"I represent the largest number of DREAMers in the country," Correa continues, referring to immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children. "To make such callous statements ... this is affecting my constituents."

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris
Vice President Kamala Harris. Greg Nash/The Hill/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Simmons posted an apology to Twitter last week, writing: "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."

Noting Simmons' statement, Correa says, "I know people can change. We all change. But you're not going to convince me of anything in a meeting. You'll convince me on what your actions are."

Erika Andiola — one of the immigrants featured in the 2010 MSNBC interview referenced in the tweets — wrote on Twitter that Simmons had reached out to her to "apologize and explain."

"Jamal committed to be an ally in his role," Andiola wrote earlier this month. "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."

Andiola added that she accepted Simmons' apology, writing: "Why believe him? Because people who I truly love and respect (including undocu folks) know him, and they've known his stances on immigration for years."

In response to Andiola's tweet, Simmons again posted on Twitter, thanking her for taking his call and adding: "You were clear. I'm not off the hook + I don't want to be. I've spoken out on TV/radio in favor of DACA +immigrant's rights+ gave platforms to ppl who know more than me to make their case for yrs. That won't stop just bc I have a new job."

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The controversy surrounding Simmons' past social media posts comes on the heels of the exit of several high-profile staffers in Harris' communications department.

In his new role, Simmons is replacing Ashley Etienne, who announced in November that she was leaving the Biden-Harris administration "to pursue other opportunities."

Symone Sanders, a former senior adviser and the chief spokesperson for Harris, also recently announced she would be leaving her role, writing in a note to staff: "I'm so grateful to the VP for her vote of confidence from the very beginning and the opportunity to see what can be unburdened by what has been. I'm grateful for [Harris chief of staff] Tina [Flournoy] and her leadership and her confidence as well."

Earlier this month, it was announced that Sanders would soon be hosting a weekend program and a show on MSNBC's political news channel, The Choice, on Peacock.

Along with hosting, the 32-year-old is expected to appear across all MSNBC platforms and will also occasionally fill in as an anchor, the network said.

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