She likened the lockup to the prisons she visited as California attorney general, saying immigrants were put to work (for $1 a day) and charged 85 cents a minute to phone their kids.
“Why do they think these parents should be any different that any one of us?” Harris said a little after noon. “Nothing can comfort our children more at the end of their day than knowing they can speak with their parents.”
Harris opened her remarks by saying she had just visited mothers separated from their children.
“I’m heartbroken,” she said before decrying the Trump administration and its “zero-tolerance” policy for undocumented border-crossers as bringing shame to Americans.
“The government should be in the business of keeping families together — not tearing them apart,” she told hundreds in an 8-minute talk.
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“We will be judged harshly for this. … So the question becomes: What are we going to do about it? So we stand up, we speak up, we shout, we march, we fight to make sure that these families and these babies and these children have a place.”
Harris, in her remarks to the crowd, didn’t describe individual cases but said the detainees had traveled a perilous journey through Mexico to flee “murder capitals of the world.”
She added: “And what do we do? Look at this place behind me. We imprison them.”
President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday intended to end family separation at the border, but it included no recourse for the several thousand families already affected by the policy over the past several months.
I’ll be visiting an immigration center later today to speak with mothers who have been separated from their children. I’ll be sharing their stories with you in the days ahead.https://t.co/yYZT00UchY
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) June 22, 2018
“This morning, thousands of children woke up without their parents, not knowing where they were, not knowing when they would see them again. The executive order yesterday doesn’t change that,” Harris tweeted Thursday.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego offered no information on how local federal prosecutors were dealing with illegal border-crossers, what instructions they were getting from Washington or the status of family separation cases.
“I’m sorry, but I have no comment at this time,” Director of Media Relations Kelly Thornton told Times of San Diego.
Harris spoke amid a rally with the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, kicking off a weekend of regional demonstrations.
Harris, a member of the Judiciary Committee and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has also called for the resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who in recent weeks has become the face of Trump administration immigrant detention policies.
Secretary Nielsen misled the American public and implemented and defended the inhumane policy of separation of children and parents. She must resign.https://t.co/UHS355jrER
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) June 21, 2018
She ended her remarks by saying: “Guys, here’s the bottom line as far as I’m concerned: This fight for us is about love of country. … This is about patriotism. … fighting for the ideals of our country.
“Years from now, our children, our grandchildren are going to ask us: Where were you at this moment?”
— City News Service contributed to this report.