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Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press
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Even as Donald Trump fights with Congress over authority to build a wall along the southern border so as to further stem immigrants from entering the United States, at least one Democrat who would replace Trump in the Oval Office has a very different view.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, one of 15 Democrats currently contending for the Democratic nomination for president, doesn’t see immigration as a security issue.
“I believe that immigration has always been a strength of this country. Our country was largely founded by immigrants and largely built by immigrants. Our diversity has always been our strength,” said Gillibrand, who a decade ago replaced Hillary Clinton in the Senate, when Clinton joined the Obama administration as secretary of state.
“It’s what creates entrepreneurism and innovation across America for our entire history and in our best moments, we have not been afraid of immigrants. In our worst moments we have,” Gillibrand added. “We have a Statue of Liberty with the beacon of hope, send us your tired and hungry, your huddled masses. She stands for something. This country, in its best moments welcomed immigrants and this is not what we are seeing from the president today.”
Trump has been extremely aggressive on enforcement at the border with Mexico, terming the situation there a “crisis,” despite the fact that apprehensions by federal authorities are way down from a high in 2000.
Aside from his wall project, Trump last year ordered a policy in which border authorities forcibly separated migrant children from their parents. According to reports, some of those migrant children still have not been returned to their parents.
“What he has done on the border is inhumane and intolerable, separating children from parents, mothers from babies, and locking up people in facilities that are run by for-profit prison companies. It’s an outrage. I would get rid of all of that,” Gillibrand said. “That should not be under [Immigration and Customs Enforcement]. It should not be under [the Department of] Homeland Security. Immigration is not a security issue. It is an economic and a humanitarian, and a family — There is no such thing as an illegal human.
“I believe we have to fundamentally transform how we treat people seeking asylum and refuge and in my state, and I know in your state, you have immigrant populations across the state,” Gillibrand told a member of the audience at televised town hall appearance.
“Refugee populations that make your economy stronger, that make your city and states stronger, that make this country stronger. We should not be afraid of refugees and asylum seekers and mothers and babies seeking our help,” Gillibrand concluded.