Sen. Kamala Harris compared U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to the Ku Klux Klan during a confirmation hearing for President Trump's nominee to head the department.
Harris, a Democrat from California who is a likely 2020 presidential candidate, asked acting ICE chief Ronald Vitiello, “Are you aware of the perception of many about how the power and the discretion at ICE is being used to enforce the laws and do you see any parallels [with the KKK]?”
After a back-and-forth in which Vitiello insisted that ICE officers were simply enforcing the law, he replied, "I see no perception that puts ICE in the same category as the KKK. Is that what you’re asking me?"
"Sir, how can you be the head of an agency and be unaware of how your agency is perceived by certain communities?" she pressed.
"I do not see a parallel between the power and the authority that ICE has to do its job and the agents and officers who do it professionally and excellently with lots of compassion," Vitiello replied. "There’s a lot of perceptions in the media and in the public that are incorrect about the agency and what it does."
Former ICE chief furious: Thomas Homan, who recently stepped down as the acting ICE chief, said Harris' comments made him want to “throw up.”
"I wanted to throw up. She and me disagree on a lot of things. What she did today, I don't think an apology would even be accepted at this point," Homan said in an apperance on Fox News where he now serves as an analyst. "What she did today was disgusting. She put her political ambitions to be the president ahead of truth and ahead of the dignity of the men and women who serve this county.”
“Kamala Harris is trying to launch her 2020 campaign off of comparing ICE officers to the KKK, and it's absolutely disgusting,” added RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel.
ICE head made his own Klan comparison: During the hearing Vitiello apologized for a tweet in which he compared the Democratic Party to the KKK, referring to it as the “NeoKlanist” party in a 2015 tweet.
"It's important and I understand the gravity, it was meant as a joke I wasn't trying to do anything other than make a joke. I regret it," he said.