(CNSNews.com) - Appearing on ABC's "The View" last Friday, Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat now running for president, said she believes in border security, but she would not treat illegal aliens as criminals.
"I would not make it punishable by jail," Harris told host Meghan McCain. "It should be a civil enforcement issue, but not a criminal one. You have to play by the rules, but we can't treat people like criminals when they are crossing the border," Harris said.
McCain's question seemed to throw Harris for a moment, so she stopped herself and tried to "be very clear."
The entire exchage follows:
McCain asked Harris, "You're for decriminalizing border crossings -- you're one of the people who raised your hand at the debate. Do you agree with AOC that we should get rid of DHS (Department of Homeland Security) altogether?"
"That is not correct," Harris replied:
I am not in favor of decriminalizing, um -- or not having consequence for -- we have to keep -- let me just be very clear.
We have to have a secure border, but I am in favor of saying that we're not going to treat people who are undocumented and cross the border as criminals. That is correct. That is correct.
And what we've got to do is we cannot have any more policy like we have under this current president that is about inhumane conduct, that is about putting babies in cages and it’s about separating children from their parents.
And we have got to have policy that is about passing immigration reform with a pathway toward citizenship, shutting down these private prisons--
"I do find it confusing," McCain interrupted. "I believe if someone crosses over the border illegally, it is illegal, and you would decriminalize it."
"I would not make it punishable by jail," Harris repeated. "It should be a civil enforcement issue, but not a criminal enforcement issue. So there should be -- you know, you gotta play by the rules, but we can't treat people like criminals when -- when they're crossing the border.”
McCain told Harris, "I think just for conservatives it is a talking point that we think open borders is something the left wants, and I understand that we have a difference of opinion, but--"
"But I believe in border security," Harris said.
"Great," McCain said.
"I believe in border security. I believe that we--" Harris started to say.
"Would you get rid of DHS?" McCain interrupted.
“No, I would not,” Harris said. “We need to restructure and reform it. It's been found actually through federal audits to be one of the most dysfunctional of the federal agencies, so we need to deal with it and fix it, but I do not believe in getting rid of it. No. Yeah."