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Kamala Harris grills Homeland Security secretary on separating parents from kids at border

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden says Chauvin verdict is step forward in fight against racial injustice Harris: Country must confront racial injustice after Chauvin verdict Minneapolis mayor on Floyd: 'Ultimately his life will have bettered our city' MORE (D-Calif.) grilled Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenLeft-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' House Republican condemns anti-Trump celebrities during impeachment hearing MORE on Tuesday for the administration's policy of separating kids from their parents.

Harris asked Nielsen at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on national security needs and authorities if President TrumpDonald TrumpSt. Louis lawyer who pointed gun at Black Lives Matter protesters considering Senate run Chauvin found guilty as nation exhales US says Iran negotiations are 'positive' MORE directed her “to separate parents from children as a method of deterrence of undocumented immigration.”

Nielsen answered that she had not been directed to do so “for purposes of deterrence.”

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Asked why she is separating families, Nielsen said her decision “has been that anyone who breaks the law will be prosecuted.”

“If you are a parent or you are a single person or you happen to have a family, if you cross between the ports of entry, we will refer you for prosecution,” Nielsen said. “You have broken U.S. law.”

The recently instituted Department of Homeland Security policy refers all people caught crossing the border illegally to prosecution. Prosecuted parents, as a result, would be separated from their children.

Harris, who is seen as a possible Democratic candidate for president in 2020, kept criticizing the policy of family separation, noting a statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics that said separating families can cause “irreparable harm.”

Nielsen restated that her department does not have a policy to separate families but instead one to prosecute people who break the law.