Following is a speech given by U.S. Senator Kamala Harris on Friday.
So let’s shout for the children and families. Let’s shout for them. So, first of all, I want to thank everyone for coming out and for all the work that everyone has been doing to give voice to these families, to these children, and to this issue.
I was just in there, I got a tour of that detention facility and then I sat down and spoke for some time and visited with the mothers who are there. And my heart is broken. These mothers, these mothers have given testimony, if you will, have given the stories, have shared their stories, their personal stories that are a story of a human rights abuse being committed by the United States government.
And we are so much better than this and what we have got to do is fight against this. This is contrary to all of the principles that we hold dear and that give us a sense of who we are when we are proud to be Americans, but we have no reason to be proud of this. We have no reason to be proud of this.
This is a situation where the United States government and this administration brought upon itself and the reputation of the American public, brought upon us, without a request, shame. Shame.
We have over 2,000 children, babies, who have been torn from their parents’ arms and they talk about it now, they’re touting this executive order. Let’s not be fooled, let’s not be fooled.
Fight for the ideals of our country. Because the bottom line is this: years from now, our children, grandchildren, people are going to ask us, “Where were you at this moment?
The reality is that this administration brought it upon itself to create a zero-tolerance policy while vilifying a group of people who have traveled through countries seeking asylum, fleeing murder capitals of the world and what do we do? Look at this place behind me, we imprison them. We imprison them. We put them behind barbed wires. I’ve walked through that. I am a career prosecutor, I have visited many prisons and jails. That is a prison.
You walk through the halls and the doors clink shut and there are bars on the windows. They get time to have recreation for a certain number of hours a day in a 500 square-foot cell. These parents, they’re being…well, we were told, a United States Senator was told, “Oh, they get phone calls for free to call their children.” But when I sit down with the parents, it is very clear that they are charged for those calls.
Now let’s also be clear about what’s happening in this prison they call a detention facility. For when they work, when they work, and they are asked and they are charged with working, you know how much they are paid? One dollar a day. The phone calls cost 85 cents a minute.
So I ask, I ask this administration, why would we think these parents should be any different than any one of us, when we understand nothing can comfort our children more at the end of their day than knowing they can speak with their parent and receive a kiss and a hug, a good night story, time together to wish them sweet dreams and wake them in the morning with our voices? There is nothing that calms and comforts a child more. We are depriving over 2,000 children of the benefit of that, most of which arrived here with parents who believed it was safer for them to take that trek through Mexico, often through a caravan with a coyote even.
They decided to endure all the risk that that might present because they knew the risk to their safety and health and well-being was worse in the place from which they came. And when they arrive here, we call them criminals. We treat them like criminals. That is not the sign of a civil society. That is not the sign of compassion.
And a society will be judged based on how it treats its children and the least among us. We will be judged harshly for this. We will be judged harshly for this. And so the question becomes what are we going to do about it? And I say 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 voice and this administration be forced to face the hypocrisy of what they have done, to reconcile the lack of connection between what they say they care about and what they actually do because frankly, I’m too busy watching what they’re doing to hear what they’re saying. And what they’re doing is tearing families apart.
The government should be in the business of keeping families together, not tearing them apart. So the bottom line is this: we have to keep giving these children and their families a voice. These mothers that I spoke with, they think that they’re alone. We need to remind them and everyone else that they are not alone and that we all stand with them.
So let’s keep being a voice and let’s make sure that we put all of the attention into also making sure that those 2,000 plus children are reunified with their parents.
Let’s make sure that we understand that we need to end this misguided, misinformed, red meat policy around this no-tolerance policy.
Let’s understand that this is not reflective of who we are as a country and we can be better.
And guys, here’s the bottom line, as far as I’m concerned. This fight for us is about love of country. I’m not letting anyone take away our flag. This is our flag. This is about patriotism. This is a fight born out of knowing who we are and fighting for the ideals of our country and that is what we are going to continue to do.
Fight for the ideals of our country. Because the bottom line is this: years from now, our children, grandchildren, people are going to ask us, “Where were you at this moment? At this inflection moment and what I know we are not going to do is we are not going to just simply say this is how I felt.
We are going to talk about what action we took, what we did, how we fought, with the best of who we are. So let’s keep on, let’s speak out, let’s march, let’s fight, let’s be the best of who we can and let’s defeat these misguided policies.