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Fact check: 2011 photo shows Harris visiting border but online post misleads on border wall views

2020-09-17 17:25:45

The claim: A 2011 photo shows Kamala Harris “proudly supporting the border wall she now opposes”

Since it was announced that Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., will join former Vice President Joe Biden on the Democratic ticket for the White House, many claims about the senator’s record as a prosecutor and California attorney general have resurfaced, some of which are inaccurate.

“Yes, this is Kamala Harris proudly supporting the border wall she now opposes,” a Facebook post shared over 1,000 times reads.

USA TODAY reached out to Melissa Grable, the original poster of the photo and public relations director of Vets for Trump, for comment.

The photo of Harris in front of the border fence is a real picture, but Harris was not there to support the fence or border wall construction. Rather, the photo op was part of the then-California attorney general’s tour of the operations of a multi-agency crackdown on international drug cartels.

Harris has opposed greater border wall funding, frequently calling such moves misguided.

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Harris’ crackdown on drugs as California AG

After assuming office as California attorney general in January 2011, Harris began focusing on cracking down on international drug cartels and other forms of syndicated crime.

The photo in question comes from a March 2011 press release announcing a joint operation with the California Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies to crack down on drug smuggling across the border.

As part of this work, Harris toured the border with Imperial Valley Police, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and California Highway Patrol, all of whom patrol the border and help regulate international commerce between the U.S. and Mexico.

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The launching of the initiative resulted in the arrests of several major drug traffickers and raids on integral cartel operations in the United States during Harris’ tenure.

Harris never directly credited a border wall for these results, instead focusing on the actions of law enforcement in her office and partners at all levels of government.

“Their conduct was terrorizing this community,” Harris said of the Nuestra Familia gang at a news conference in June 2011. “And by extension, their conduct was bleeding through the whole state of California.”

The operation involved at least 16 other law enforcement groups as part of the project begun at the time the photo was taken.

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Harris’ views on a border wall

USA TODAY could not find any comments made by Harris on the border wall while she was California attorney general, though she did make several comments concerning her approach to criminal justice and border enforcement.

“When an appalling 70 percent of those released from our overburdened correctional system reappear in the revolving door within three years; when we spend twice as much on prisons as we invest in colleges and universities; and when organized violent criminal gangs continue to present an expanding threat across borders and prison walls … It is time to recognize the need for some drastic repair,” Harris said in her 2011 inaugural address as attorney general.

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Harris has been an especially vocal critic of President Donald Trump’s efforts to build a border wall.

Harris was one of the three senators who opposed a deal which would have granted Trump border wall funding as part of a legislative deal that also included a path to citizenship for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“I’m not going to vote for a wall under any circumstances,” Harris said during a 2019 CNN Town Hall where she called the president’s wall proposal a “medieval vanity project.”

Harris again called the idea of an expanded border wall a “vanity project” while on a tour for her book “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey.” Harris called the budgetary fight over funding for the wall a “distraction from the fact that you’ve got Mueller investigating.”

Harris also called the war on drugs “ineffective” and criticized the country’s cash bail system as “not reflective of a system of justice” because of its disproportionate cost and damage inflicted on poor Americans.

Harris later repeated the line during the May 2019 kickoff rally for her presidential campaign.

“Folks, on the subject of transnational gangs, let’s be perfectly clear: The president’s medieval vanity project is not going to stop them,” the senator said.

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Our ruling: False

Sen. Kamala Harris has been a vocal critic of border wall funding, seeing the move as misguided. There is no evidence the 2011 photo’s backdrop was meant to emphasize the border fencing, but rather the law enforcement personnel who appeared alongside Harris. We rate this claim FALSE, because it is not supported by our research.

Our fact-check sources:

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Online post misleads on Kamala Harris, border wall support

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