‘Utter despair’: Sen. Harris visits migrant mothers separated from children in San Diego

SAN DIEGO -- U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris is in San Diego Friday to visit the Otay Mesa Immigration and Detention Facility, where she met with migrant mothers who were separated from their children.

After the tour, Harris joined the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties in a rally outside the detention facility. Harris reported that the women she met inside the facility were "in complete and utter despair." The senator said that the inside of the facility reminded her of a "typical prison setting," adding that detained immigrants work at a rate of "one dollar per day" at the center and are charged 85 cents per minute for phone calls.

But some local organizations pushed back on Harris' criticism for the detention facilities and the Trump administration's immigration policies. “No one is above our laws, especially foreign criminals," San Diegans for Secure Borders said Friday. "[People] who illegally cross our borders all know that they will be prosecuted for their crimes. They knowingly put their children at risk knowingly of abuse and family separation.”

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday intended to end family separation at the border, but Harris said that for those who have already been separated, there is "no protocol in place that is intended to actually unify these parents with their children."

Harris, an outspoken critic of the Trump administration, has called for immediate reunification of separated families.

"This morning thousands of children woke up without their parents, not knowing where they were, not knowing when they would see them again. The executive order yesterday doesn't change that," Harris tweeted Thursday.

The event kicks off a weekend of regional demonstrations.

Harris, a member of the Judiciary Committee and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has also called for the resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who in recent weeks has become the face of Trump administration immigrant detention policies.

"Under her watch, our government has committed human rights abuses by breaking up families along the southern border. And she has failed to be accountable to and transparent with the American people," Harris tweeted.