Politics

Kamala Harris touts White House record at Latino event in Houston ahead of 2024

The vice president’s Houston visit comes as the Biden campaign works to shore up Latino support ahead of a potential rematch against former President Donald Trump next year.

Vice President Kamala Harris holds a roundtable discussion with advocates from faith-based NGOs (non-governmental organizations), and shelter and legal service providers, during her visit to the Paso del Norte (PDN) Port of Entry in El Paso, Texas, Friday, June 25, 2021. The Paso del Norte Port of Entry is one of the country's busiest pedestrian border crossings. It is located on the Paso Del Norte International Bridge. Thousands of people cross the border through the Port each day.
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
FILE: Vice President Kamala Harris holds a roundtable discussion with advocates from faith-based NGOs (non-governmental organizations), and shelter and legal service providers, during her visit to the Paso del Norte (PDN) Port of Entry in El Paso, Texas, Friday, June 25, 2021.

Vice President Kamala Harris, during a visit to Houston on Monday, pitched Latino Texans on the White House's advocacy for them as President Joe Biden prepares to face voters again next year.

"We are living in a moment where there is a full-on attack on hard-won freedoms and rights," Harris said, addressing the challenges ahead. "In the next 11 months, we've got a lot of work to do to make true the promise of who we are as America."

Harris spoke as part of a moderated conversation with U.S. Reps. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, and Nanette Barragán, D-Calif., chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Harris attended a Biden campaign fundraiser afterward.

Harris specifically touted the administration's efforts to help minority-owned businesses, saying she and Biden "understand the history of disparity." She noted the White House has committed to a 50% increase in federal contracts for such businesses and has invested $12 billion in community lenders to expand access to capital for entrepreneurs.

But Harris also spoke more broadly about what she called an "intentional full-on attack" against people's rights, including the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade last year. She harshly criticized states like Texas that after the ruling instituted abortion bans without exceptions for rape victims.

"The idea that after someone has survived a crime of violence to their body, a violation of their body, that they would be told, ‘And you have no right to make a decision about what happens to your body next' — it's immoral," Harris said. "It's immoral."

The conversation was introduced by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, who spoke about her recent struggles with mental health and the stigma attached to it, especially in the Latino community. Hidalgo took a nine-week leave of absence earlier this year to check herself into an inpatient treatment center in Ohio.

[Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo extends mental health leave]

"It's just something we don't talk about in our culture, but that doesn't mean it's not happening," Hidalgo said.

Hidalgo said Harris contacted her while she was receiving treatment and was "such a source of support for me."

The event took place at Hardy Senior Center in Garcia's district, one of the most heavily Hispanic congressional districts in the country.

Harris headed to a private residence afterward for the fundraiser, which was also attended by her husband, Doug Emhoff, as well as Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. According to a pool report, Emhoff paid homage to famous Texas Democrats and alluded to the decades-long Republican control of the state.

“We will never give up on Texas,” Emhoff said.

Harris' visit comes as the Biden campaign works to shore up Latino support ahead of a potential rematch against former President Donald Trump next year. In Texas, Republicans have been making an aggressive push to win over more Hispanic voters, particularly in South Texas.

As Harris visited Houston, a group of Hispanic Republican lawmakers and candidates was convening in the city for a fundraiser organized by the Hispanic Leadership Trust. The group is partly led by U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-San Antonio.

One of the participants, former U.S. Rep. Mayra Fores, R-Los Indios, criticized Harris' visit for a lack of focus on the border. The topic did not come up in the conversation.

"Kamala Harris coming to Houston while continuing to ignore the crisis at our southern border is a slap in the face to every Texan, every American, and every Hispanic American in this country," Flores said in a statement. "Hispanic Americans are flocking toward the Republican Party because we have the solutions to solve the issues at the border, the gas pump, the grocery store and everywhere in between."

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/11/27/kamala-harris-vice-president-houston/. The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.