WASHINGTON — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., accused the Trump administration of waging a "campaign of terror" against minority communities in America, pointing specifically to the recent Mississippi food processing plant raids that picked up 680 suspected undocumented workers.
Noting that the raids last week arrested predominately Latino workers, the Democratic presidential hopeful said she believes Hispanics feel targeted in America. In an interview with "Meet the Press," Harris also questioned why the raids occurred so close to last weekend's mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, the largest targeted attack on Latinos in modern American history.
"We must point out and never condone anyone who uses their power in a way that fans it. But the reality is that these are forms of hate that are not new to our country, which have in the history of our country taken lethal proportion, and, still today, take on lethal proportion," she said.
"This administration has directed DHS to conduct these raids as part of what I believe is this administration's campaign of terror, which is to make whole populations of people afraid to go to work," Harris said. "Children are afraid to go to school for fear that when they come home, their parents won’t be there.”
The raids hit several work sites in Mississippi, with immigration officials hailing it as the "largest single-state enforcement action in [the] nation's history."
Community leaders and immigration advocates have criticized the administration's handling of the raid, pointing to the effects it will have on children whose parents were apprehended and to lack of criminal actions against the employers specifically.
When asked about the decision to hold the raid shortly after the El Paso shooting, where the shooter told police he was targeting "Mexicans," acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan told "Meet the Press" Sunday that the timing was “unfortunate.”
But he defended the raid as the culmination of a lengthy investigation “done with sensitivity” by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents, and said law enforcement released 45 percent of those arrested within the first day for humanitarian reasons, including child care.
“This is a criminal investigation of the employers who are exploiting an undocumented workforce and skirting our laws. Now, when you do an operation at a worksite, you can’t ignore the people who are there without proper permission to be in the United States. You don’t know who they are. Over 200 of these individuals had a criminal record in the U.S.,” he said.
“ICE took great pains to make sure there were no child/dependent care issues that were ignored.”
When pressed repeatedly as to why the companies involved were not charged with any crimes after the raids, McAleenan said that the investigation is ongoing.
“Those employers are just ignoring the law entirely in what they do. That’s why a judge gave us a warrant to go after them. This is the middle of an ongoing investigation and we do expect to continue forward toward charges,” he said.