California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris delivered this statement to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Neilsen at a Senate Judiciary hearing Tuesday morning. She addressed her concerns about racism in the Trump administration before continuing on to questions about policy.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: I join issue with the statements of Senator Booker. I am deeply concerned and troubled about the words that I believe that Dick Durbin has shared with us that came from the President of the United States. I believe that the words spoken by any president of these United States are powerful words and should be spoken with the spirit of unifying and not dividing our country—should be spoken in a way that brings dignity to other human beings and does not demean them. I am deeply concerned when we are—just having celebrated the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, who spoke about the effect of racism in this country and words that are motivated by racism. For so many reasons they are harmful. They have led to death. At their mildest form, which is not mild, it suggests to one group of people that they are inferior, and to another that they are superior, to their fellow man.
This is a pivotal moment in the history of our country. When we are having discussions about whether the people of Norway—and will use your words, Madam Secretary—and you spoke about how they were referred to as by contrast to the people of Africa and the various countries—the 54 countries of Africa and Haiti, and we speak of them and you spoke of them, according to the president, as the people of Norway—’well, you know, they work very hard’—the inference being the people of the 54 states of Africa and Haiti do not. That is a fair inference. You run the Department of Homeland Security and when you say you don’t know if Norway is predominantly white when asked by a member of the United States Senate, that causes me concern about your ability to understand the scope of your responsibilities and the impact of your words, much less the policies that you promulgate in that very important department.
You opened by talking about a number of statistics that paint the threat the country faces from terrorism. Particularly you spoke of those who commit acts of terror who are not born in this country. The study you mentioned, however, leaves out some of the most rampant terror attacks that we’ve seen lately which were domestic acts of terror. As has been mentioned, there is a report from the FBI and DHS which outlines white supremacist extremists. And I quote, the report says, ‘will likely continue to pose a threat of lethal violence over the course of the next year.’ The report states that ‘white supremacist extremists are responsible for 49 homicides and 26 attacks from the year 2000 to 2016. More than any other domestic extremist movement.’ I am quoting. It is deeply troubling that in your opening comments when you talk about the threats to our nation, our homeland, to national security, that you fail to mention a report that outlined a very specific threat to us as the American people—deeply troubled. You must understand the inference, the reasonable inference that the American public is drawing from the words you speak, much less the words of the president of the United States.