Politics & Government

Kamala Harris gets star treatment and no protests at her town hall

Kamala Harris says local law enforcement shouldn't have to do the federal government's job

California Sen. Kamala Harris, speaking in Los Angeles on April 21, 2017, said local public safety officials have enough on their hands without enforcing federal immigration law.
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California Sen. Kamala Harris, speaking in Los Angeles on April 21, 2017, said local public safety officials have enough on their hands without enforcing federal immigration law.

Sen. Kamala Harris of California, a Democratic star showing up on lists of potential 2020 presidential candidates, was embraced with a resounding ovation as she condemned the Trump administration at her first town hall meeting on Friday.

Harris pledged to do whatever she could to help block the budget if it includes funding for President Trump’s proposed wall on the southern border.

”It’s just a stupid use of money,” she told the cheering crowd.

Other Democratic politicians – including California Sen. Dianne Feinstein – have faced protests at town halls from members of the liberal “resistance” group Indivisible who argue they could be doing more to oppose Trump. No such protests faced Harris.

“I like her,” said Stephen Carcieri of Indivisible Los Angeles. “She’s been pretty good on the votes.”

Free tickets went quickly for Harris’ town hall as some 800 people packed the pews at Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles. There were Spanish translators on hand and many people from the Service Employees International Union, a major Harris supporter.

No one in the liberal crowd expressed support for Trump or much skepticism of Harris, who is less than four months into her first Senate term.

People whipped out their cell phones to get video of Harris when she began speaking and clamored for selfies with her afterward. The crowd thundered its approval when Harris agreed with a questioner that Trump needs to release his tax returns.

“What does he have to hide? It is what it is, show us,” she said.

Immigration was a major theme, with one woman expressing fears that a militarized deportation force will make raids in California.

“We are not going to buy into this administration’s fear mongering and vilifying whole communities of people,” Harris said. “I’ve personally prosecuted everything from low level offenses to homicides. I know what a crime looks like and an undocumented immigrant is not a criminal.”

She warned against a renewal of the war on drugs, calling it a war on poor communities that amounted to “criminalizing a public health matter.” Harris singled out Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is an outspoken proponent of drug enforcement.

“We need to watch this Jeff Sessions, who is talking about resucitating all this. We have come too far to go back, to go backward on fundamental criminal justice issues, like whether or not this is a public health matter or a ciminal justice matter,” she said.

Harris often sounded like she was leading an anti-Trump rally – promising to fight on the environment, health care, immigration and other issues.

“I come to you with bloody knuckles but I am going back (to Washington) fortified,” Harris said.

The reality, though, is that Harris and other Democrats don’t have much power with the Republicans in firm control of Congress.

Harris said progressives shouldn’t impose a purity test on Democratic politicians who need to run for election in heavily Republican states.

“We have to make a decision on whether we support someone we disagree with 30 percent of the time, knowing we will disagree with their opponent 100 percent of the time,” she said.

Several people at the town hall said they’re still learning about Harris’ work in the Senate but are impressed with what they’ve seen.

“Progressives have no objection at all to what she’s doing,” said Barry Rosenbaum of Santa Monica.

Sean Cockerham: 202-383-6016, @seancockerham

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