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Harris' new communications director apologizes after backlash to 2010 deportations tweet

The decade-old tweet from Jamal Simmons, a longtime Democratic strategist, indicated support for deporting undocumented immigrants.
Jamal Simmons speaks on a panel in New York in 2016.
Jamal Simmons speaks on a panel in New York in 2016.John Lamparski / Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris' newly appointed communications director apologized Friday after criticism of a resurfaced 2010 tweet that suggested undocumented immigrants should be deported.

Jamal Simmons, a longtime Democratic strategist who was recently tapped as the chief spokesperson for Harris, issued a statement saying that in his years as a political commentator he sometimes "plainly missed the mark."

“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," Simmons said. "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. 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.”

The statement was in response to online backlash, particularly from progressives, to a decade-old tweet on immigration enforcement.

"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 tweeted in 2010.

The sentiment expressed in the tweet is in stark contrast to the Biden administration's immigration policies. The administration implemented new guidelines last year aimed at curbing deportations, in addition to pausing some deportations in President Joe Biden's first 100 days to overhaul enforcement practices. Meanwhile, Harris has been tasked with addressing the root causes of migration.

Some immigration hardliners, including Stephen Miller, who was a senior White House adviser during the Trump administration, drew attention to Simmons' tweet by saying they agreed with his 2010 remark.

"I agree with @JamalSimmons. If you break into our nation there must be deportation," Miller tweeted.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The apology from Simmons comes as Harris has seen high-level departures from her office, including a shakeup on her communications team, less than a year since taking office. Simmons was tapped to succeed Ashley Etienne, who left in November, while another top aide, Symone Sanders, left in December.