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Sen. Harris Proposes 50 Percent Cut to Immigration Detention Center Beds

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) joins an women's advocacy group, MomsRising, press conference at the Capitol on May 23, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON – Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said Congress should pass a bill that would reduce the number of beds in immigration detention centers by 50 percent and freeze the construction of new detention centers.

Harris is a sponsor of the Detention Oversight Not Expansion (DONE) Act, which was recently introduced in the House and Senate.

“There will be a moratorium on the expansion or construction of new detention facilities. Two, we will increase oversight of ICE facilities by the office of the inspector general and, three, the reduction of detention beds by 50 percent, and we will do that by creating more successful and less costly alternatives to detention,” Harris said at a press conference with the organization MomsRising on Wednesday that focused on urging the Trump administration not to separate families through the enforcement of immigration law.

“This is about our children and families and whether we are going to be a compassionate government or a cruel government, and I think we’re better than this,” she added. “I wish the administration understood this.”

Immigration detention centers house migrants who were caught attempting to enter the country illegally.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) called the Trump administration’s approach to immigration enforcement “anti-family,” adding that mothers who bring their children “across the desert” to the U.S. illegally are protecting their children. She referenced a discussion she had with Trump administration officials about immigration policy a few months ago.

“I said to them, ‘Do you realize that these mothers had no choice, that this was what they had to do to protect their children from danger and all kinds of terrible occurrences?’ And they said, ‘Well, no, these mothers did not act responsibility and we know how to take care of children. We’re going to take them away from their mothers and we’re going to do other things including putting them in foster homes,’” Pelosi said at the news conference.

“So when they said that I didn’t know whether to resort to violence over the phone because it was so unnatural and so, shall we say, out of keeping with anybody who had a sense of family,” she added.

According to a Fusion investigation conducted in 2014, “80 percent of Central American girls and women crossing Mexico en route to the United States are raped along the way.” Before the Fusion study, the number was estimated at 60 percent, according to Amnesty International.

Pelosi labeled President Trump the first “anti-newcomer” Republican president in modern times.

“President Reagan acted even after Congress acted; he said you did not go far enough, so he introduced ‘family fairness.’ And he and President George Herbert Walker Bush embraced that and actually they protected a higher percentage of family members of people than President Obama,” she said. “That was a value shared in a bipartisan way led by President Reagan.”

Pelosi said the Trump administration should not separate children from their mothers who are detained for trying to cross the border illegally.

“We have to put a stop to this, and there’s no better way than to make sure the American people are aware of it,” she said.