CLAIM: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said at the second Democratic debate that “children” at the border are being “incarcerated as though they’ve committed crimes.”
VERDICT: False — minors are being sheltered until they can be released to the custody of relatives or guardians.
Harris referred to her visit to Homestead, Florida, after the first Democratic debate, where several presidential candidates joined protesters outside the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children.
She said: “I climbed that ladder, and I looked over the fence. I saw children lined up single-file based on gender being walked into barracks. The policies of this administration have been facilitated by laws on the books. that allow these children to be incarcerated as though they’ve committed crimes. These children have not committed crimes, and should not be treated like criminals.”
The facility was first opened under the Obama administration.
The “children” at the facility are, in fact, teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17. They crossed the border illegally, which is a crime.
In some cases, migrant children are actually rescued by U.S. Border Patrol after being abandoned by smugglers.
They were not separated from their parents by U.S. authorities. According to the federal government, most crossed the border illegally — and unaccompanied by adults.
The U.S. government has few options. It cannot return them, unaccompanied, to Mexico. It cannot allow them to enter the country alone.
So it provides temporary shelter for them. They are housed in dormitory-style conditions and are provided medical care, toiletries, education, counseling, and recreation.
They are “separated by gender” to protect the teenager from sexual abuse.
Breitbart News visited one such facility last year, in California, noting: “The children at the facility seemed genuinely happy, despite their unfortunate circumstances and the trauma of their long journey.”
The goal of these facilities is to reunite the children with sponsors in the U.S. — even if those sponsors may themselves be in the country illegally.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.
This post has been updated to correct Kamala Harris’s quote.