Kamala Harris makes her case for the youth vote in appearance at FIU in Miami
Vice President Kamala Harris told thousands of college students and others in Miami Thursday that the country is witnessing “an intentional full-on attack against hard won freedoms and rights,” and they need to respond by going to the ballot box next year.
“It is incumbent on us then to not passively sit by and let it happen but to stand up and fight for what we know to be right and be true,” said Harris, who gathered with a group at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami as part of her “Fight for Our Freedoms College Tour.”
“That’s why it is called the fight for our freedoms tour. It is because we all know that any movement that has been about progress in our country has almost every time been led by college students, by young leaders, and that the strength and progress of our country has been reliant on the fact that we are committed to an expansion of rights, not a restriction of rights,” she said, before adding, “similar to what some extremists ‘so called leaders’ are trying to do here in Florida.”
The trip to FIU was the latest leg of a tour that has focused on visits to historically Black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions to get students motivated to go to the polls in 2024. (According to FIU Factbook, the majority of the student body is Hispanic, based on fall 2023 enrollment.)
Harris spoke in front of the Ocean Bank Convocation Center at FIU, where she engaged in a casual conversation with rapper Fat Joe and actor/singer Anthony Ramos.
Generation of young people
When Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in 2020, he won 61% of voters between the ages of 18 and 29, according to AP VoteCast. But his approval ratings have shrunk with that age group during the course of his presidency, and he now has just 36% approval of that voting group, according to a New York Times/Siena Poll taken in July.
That said, Harris called the current generation of young people “one of the most spectacular, special that we have seen in a long time.”
“You all were born, only knowing the climate crisis,” she said. “You all were born when there have been one of the worst pandemics our world has ever seen. In your lifetime, you witnessed George Floyd’s murder. In your lifetime you growing up had to endure drills in elementary, middle or high school because there might be an active shooter. In your lifetime you have witnessed the highest court in our land take [away] a constitutional right that had been recognized.”
Harris went on to tout moves made by the Biden administration that she said were in response to young people voting for the Democratic presidential ticket in 2020, including committing huge investments in battling climate change, replacing lead pipes across the country, and reducing some student debt — though the major plan was thwarted by the U.S. Supreme Court in late June.
The Phoenix reported that the court’s decision ruined the chances of relief for more than 1.5 million Floridians who applied for or were eligible under the plan.
“We had an initiative to forgive up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients, of which the majority of Latino students are Pell Grant recipients,” Harris said on Thursday. “Sadly, there is a political agenda to undo what we are trying to do, and we’re going to have to still have that fight and we are continuing to fight, but because you voted we were able to implement the policy in the first place.”
Harris also referred to laws that she said make it more difficult to vote, specifically citing Georgia’s 2021 election overhaul that included the banning of handing out food and water to voters waiting in line to cast a ballot.
“The hypocrisy abounds because what happened to ‘love thy neighbor?’ Harris asked.
A federal judge last month partially struck down that particular provision of the law, and now allows for food and water to be given out to voters as long as they are not within 150 feet of a polling place, the Georgia Recorder reported earlier this week.
Harris also referred to how the Florida Legislature enacted yet another measure on felon voting rights in 2019.
“Let me tell you: it does not have to be this way,” Harris said.
Voter rights are automatically restored to citizens who complete their criminal sentences. Amendment 4 was supposed to do that in 2018, but the GOP-controlled Legislature required that those felons had to pay off any of their outstanding legal fines and fees before they could get those voting rights restored, which has severely limited the number of individuals who have actually been able to register to vote.
“What happened to the concept of redemption?” Harris asked. “Come on!”
She also attacked the state’s six-week abortion ban, which has not yet gone into effect just yet. The Florida Supreme Court is weighing a legal challenge to 2022’s 15-week abortion ban which is currently the law of the land in Florida. If the court throws out that legal challenge, the six-week ban would go into effect shortly afterwards.
“That tells me that a lot of these folks don’t even know how women’s bodies work,” she said. “Most women don’t even know that they’re pregnant after six weeks. Come on!”
Another Florida Republican policy that Harris took on was the state’s attack on diversity, equity and inclusion programs (DEI) that was passed year and had been used in the past by universities.
“Let’s be clear: they’re trying to say that’s a bad word. That’s a bad phrase. That’s bad to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. You know what they’re up to. They’re trying to do the same thing they did with ‘woke,’ she said. “They’re trying to turn it against the people who understand exactly why it is important to focus on and be alert and awake to what is happening, and to speak honestly about it, with the goal only of solutions that are based in equity and fairness.”
She concluded her 35-minute appearance by saying while the times are challenging, what’s happening doesn’t have to be depressing.
“The fight for our freedoms is the fight for something. It’s not a fight against something,” Harris said.
This was her third visit to Florida in the past two months, and the sixth overall this year, according to Spectrum News.