Harris -- a California Democrat who is seeking the party's 2020 presidential nomination -- made the comments while speaking to an audience in Iowa on Sunday on “Political Party Live,” the network reported.
According to CNN, host Misty Rebik asked Harris about a past report by the network that claimed Harris backed a San Francisco policy of reporting arrests of undocumented juveniles to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Harris responded by saying the notification of ICE was an “unintended consequence” of the city policy, enacted by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom. (Newsom is now governor of California, while Harris is a U.S. senator after being the district attorney of San Francisco from 2004-2011 and then attorney general of California from 2011-2017.)
CNN reported Wednesday, however, that the ICE-notification component was part of the policy itself, not an “unintended consequence.”
Ian Sams, a spokesman for Harris, responded to the network’s assertion that Harris had “mischaracterized” the matter.
"As Governor Newsom has said, the initial policy was intended to protect the sanctuary status of San Francisco, which Senator Harris has always supported and defended," Sams said in a statement. "We have said this policy should have been done differently, but as Senator, Harris is focused on protecting Dreamers, fighting this president's attempts to build a vanity project on the southern border, exercising more oversight of ICE, reforming our immigration system with a path to citizenship, and reuniting families separated by this administration. Those will be her priorities should she be elected president."
The question of whether city police departments will alert federal immigration authorities about undocumented immigrants who are charged with crimes has been a focus of the “sanctuary cities” debate between liberal-leaning cities and the Trump administration.
Last March, Harris contended that ICE officials were potentially overstepping their authority by pursuing illegal immigrants who pose no safety threat to the public.
Thomas Homan, who was then acting director of ICE, responded by saying, “We're not abusing our authority, we are enforcing the law."
After Newsom left the mayor's job in 2011, his successor changed the policy so that police would report to ICE only unaccompanied juvenile undocumented immigrants who were arrested, the report said. Then two years later San Francisco passed an ordinance that blocked ICE from receiving any information about people under arrest, except in limited circumstances.