Harris: I'm not in favor of decriminalizing illegal immigration, I just won't treat it like a crime!

“Let me just be very clear,” Kamala Harris tells Meghan McCain right before she does the exact opposite. It’s rare to see an experienced politician contradict him/herself in the same appearance, but Harris manages to do almost within the same breath. When McCain declares that Harris is for decriminalization, Harris objects, saying “I am not in favor of decriminalizing.” In the very next sentence, Harris then says “we’re not going to treat people who are undocumented and cross borders as criminals.”

If that’s Harris’ idea of “very clear,” it explains a lot about her campaign:

I had to transcribe this word salad to see if it made any more sense as text. Nope!

MCCAIN: You’re for decriminalizing border crossings, one of things people were [inaudible] at the debate. Do you agree with AOC that we should get rid of DHS altogether?

HARRIS: That’s not correct. I’m not in favor of decriminalizing, or not having consequence for — we have to keep — let me just be very clear. We have to have a secure border, but I am in favor of saying we’re not going to treat people who are undocumented and cross borders as criminals. That’s correct. That is correct. And what we’ve got to do is we cannot have any more policy like we have under this current president, that is about inhumane conduct, that is about putting babies in cages, that is about separating children from their parents. And we have got to have policies that is about passing comprehensive immigration reform with the pathway toward citizenship, shutting down these private detention facilities —

MCCAIN: Clarify this for me, though, because I find it confusing.

HARRIS: Yes, yes.

MCCAIN: I believe that if someone crosses over the border illegally, it’s illegal. And you would decriminalize it.

HARRIS: I would not make it a crime punishable by jail. It should be a civil enforcement issue, but not a criminal enforcement issue.


HARRIS: There should be — you know, you gotta play by the rules, but we can’t treat people like criminals.

“We can’t treat people like criminals”? What exactly did Harris do as California’s Attorney General, anyway? She didn’t have that trouble when it came to parents of truant students, for example. In 2011, Harris explicitly threatened parents with the “full force and consequences of the law” after the state legislature made truancy a crime in the state’s penal code.

There is no coherent position in here except that Harris lacks intestinal fortitude to pick a position and stick with it. If she’s not going to enforce the criminal statute against border crossings, then she’s for decriminalization. Harris just doesn’t want to get stuck on that position, so she denies favoring decriminalization while insisting that a President Harris won’t treat border crossers as criminals. That’s as clear as oatmeal stout.

It’s beyond comprehension what Harris means by “civil enforcement” in this context, too. Does she propose issuing tickets and collecting fines? That’s hardly a deterrent — it’s a massive incentive to pay a fee and never have to worry about deportation. What happens if they don’t pay the fines? Would it be too much to treat them as criminals at that point? We certainly do that with Americans in other contexts.

Meghan’s amused “ooooookay” at the end is an understandable if understated reaction to Harris’ desperate pinballing between pandering to progressives and protecting her standing on law and order. Kudos to McCain for not requiring some dramamine by the end of Harris’ explanation.