Indian-American Kamala Harris, who scripted history by winning a Senate seat, has said she is suspicious of president-elect Donald Trump's plans to deport 2-3 million undocumented immigrants with criminal history, saying a "whole range of behaviour" can qualify as crime.
"I have an experience with this kind of approach and what I have seen is when you say criminal, that's a very broad term. It's not a monolith. There's a whole range of behaviors that can qualify as being called a crime," Harris told Miami Herald in an interview.
Harris, 52, is of both India and African heritage and is in Washington DC for a week-long orientation programme for new Senators. She is the first Senator of Indian heritage.
The California Senator said she would be staying in Washington DC after the orientation programme to search for a house.
"A DUI (driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol) is very different from rape. And as a career prosecutor I have constantly and consistently seen that one of the best tools in the tool belt of a predator of an undocumented immigrant, be it rape, be it domestic violence, be it fraud, one of the best tools that the predator has is to look at the victim and tell the victim, 'if you report this, it is you who will be treated like a criminal'," she said.
"So we have to really think about what is in the best interests of public safety and understand that one of the best ways we can create justice is that we also have to make sure that we set up a system that will protect victims. Just based on previous experience, the definition of a crime can be left up to a lot of interpretation, and I think can have unintended consequences," Harris said.
Harris, who was endorsed by outgoing President Barack Obama in her Senate race, is a fierce opponent of Trump.
"I am suspicious of that approach... And here's the other reality of it, every federal agency, every state or local agency, especially in law enforcement, will tell you they have limited resources and as far as I'm concerned I prefer that those resources as it relates in particular to nonviolent, nonserious crime, go into helping me I'm still AG do the work we need to do in dealing with transnational criminal organizations, who have a proven track record of trafficking in guns and drugs and humans," Harris said.
"I can tell you we don't have enough resources for that. So the concern is also about misplaced priorities for the sake of a sound bite," she said in response to a question.
Harris has already talked with her future Democratic colleagues about "banding together" to protect immigrants from what she described as Trump's draconian immigration proposals.
However, Harris said she would co-operate with the president-elect on infrastructure issue.