Kamala Harris made forceful claims on civil rights and immigration. Did she get them right?
With a quip about a "food fight" and passionate claims on the economy, civil rights and immigration, California Sen. Kamala Harris caught the attention of many Thursday during the second night of the Democratic presidential debates in Miami.
Harris landed the first zinger as other candidates talked over one another: "Hey, guys, you know what, America does not want to witness a food fight, they want to know how we are going to put food on their table," she said, garnering applause.
The two other Californians on stage, Rep. Eric Swalwell and author Marianne Williamson, also made impassioned statements. Swalwell focused on his top priority: gun control. He said he was the only candidate to propose a ban and buyback plan for assault-style weapons. The Bay Area millennial also spoke about the need to ease the student loan burden on young people, and his own sizeable debt, and the passing of the torch to a new generation of leaders.
Williamson, meanwhile, said America must do more to end chronic illnesses and "harness love" to defeat President Trump in 2020.
Here’s our early analysis on several claims by Harris and one by Williamson.
Harris: the GOP tax cut is contributing "at least $1 trillion to the debt of America."
That’s generally accurate, but she didn’t put a time period on it. The Congressional Budget Office estimated last year that the tax cut "increases the total projected deficit over the 2018–2028 period by about $1.9 trillion." PolitiFact examined this in-depth in January.
Based on estimates from Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, about half of the tax cuts would flow to the top 10 percent of taxpayers, or those making $200,000 or more, PolitiFact reported.
Harris: "so many American families do not" own stocks.
Harris was making the point that President Trump connects the health of the economy to the stock market. "Well, that's fine if you own stocks," Harris quipped. In a fact check last year, PolitFact found a narrow majority of Americans owns stocks, according to credible recent studies. Americans of modest incomes, however, are significantly less invested in the stock market than wealthier Americans.
Other large groups, including minorities and those without a college education, PolitiFact concluded, also lag in stock ownership, meaning that the stock rally is largely passing them by.
Harris: "I disagreed with my president" on Obama’s secure communities deportation plan
She cited a plan where local law enforcement cooperates with federal immigration authorities to help deport people who are in the country illegally. There’s some evidence Harris disagreed with the Obama administration. In 2014, then-California Attorney General Harris advised local police and sheriff’s departments, in the form of a bulletin, that they did not have to comply with ICE detainer requests.
"When local law enforcement officials are seen as de facto immigration enforcers, it erodes the trust between our peace officers and the communities they serve," Harris was quoted in the 2014 bulletin. "Federal immigration detainers are voluntary and this bulletin supports the TRUST Act and law enforcement leaders’ discretion to utilize resources in a manner that best serves their communities."
During the debate, Harris said, "I disagreed with my president, because the policy was to allow deportation of people who by ICE's own definition were non-criminals. So as attorney general, and the chief law officer of the state of California, I issued a directive to the sheriffs of my state that they did not have to comply with detainers, and instead should make decisions based on the best interests of public safety of their community."
Harris: Joe Biden worked "to oppose busing"
In April, PolitiFact reported that Biden voted against busing in the 1970s, but he supported desegregation.
Biden won his Senate seat in 1972 on a platform of integration, but once in office, he came under strong pressure from white constituents who hated the idea of busing to desegregate schools.
At the debate Thursday night, Biden said his position was that municipalities, not the federal government, should decide on busing. After the debate, he told MSNBC that Harris had mischaracterized his position.
Williamson: "So many Americans have unnecessary chronic illnesses — so many more compared to other countries."
PolitiFact National found there is evidence for this, at least for older Americans.
A November 2014 study by the Commonwealth Fund found that 68% of Americans 65 and older had two or more chronic conditions, and an additional 20% had one chronic condition.
No other country studied — the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, or Canada — had a higher rate of older residents with at least two chronic conditions. The percentages ranged from 33 percent in the United Kingdom to 56 percent in Canada.
An earlier study published in the journal Health Affairs in 2007 found that "for many of the most costly chronic conditions, diagnosed disease prevalence and treatment rates were higher in the United States than in a sample of European countries in 2004."
PolitiFact California will continue to evaluate claims by all California candidates for president.