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Gillibrand: I would eliminate for-profit detention centers

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks at

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks at the We The People Summit at the Warner Theatre in Washington on April 1. Credit: EPA / Michael Reynolds

WASHINGTON — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday said if elected president she would not detain immigrants seeking asylum in the United States and would defund the for-profit detention centers used to house migrants.

Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), one of nearly two-dozen Democrats seeking the presidential nomination, also addressed the recent passage of restrictive abortion laws in Alabama and Georgia, saying it was “unacceptable” for any Democratic candidate to support anti-abortion policies. She also dismissed talk that her 2020 chances were hurt by the large pool of candidates.

“As President of the United States, I wouldn’t use the detention system at all,” said Gillibrand, when asked about the growing numbers of migrants seeking asylum along the U.S. southern border. “What I would do is actually fund the border security measures that are anti-terrorism, anti-human trafficking, anti-drug trafficking, and anti-gun trafficking. And I would defund these for-profit prison systems that are harming children and harming families who are seeking asylum.”

Pressed by “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan about her plans for the “hundreds of thousands” of migrants awaiting asylum hearings, Gillibrand said they could be released “into the community” and return for court appointments. The Department of Homeland Security currently allows certain migrants to be released to relatives living in the United States as they await the outcome of their immigration hearings, often relying on ankle monitors and mandated check-ins to track their whereabouts.

“If they’re given a lawyer, and given a process, they will follow it,” Gillibrand said.

President Donald Trump, who last week unveiled his latest attempt to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws by creating a points-based visa system, has often called for an end of what he describes as a “catch and release” system of immigration enforcement. He has argued the system does not guarantee migrants will return for their hearings.

Asked if she was opposed to Trump’s call to relocate detained migrants to so-called sanctuary cities and states run by Democrats, Gillibrand said: “What the state of New York does well is we actually take refugee families into our communities. We would be delighted to take refugee families into cities like Buffalo, and Syracuse and Rochester, and Albany.”

Gillibrand, who traveled to Georgia last week to protest restrictive abortion laws that have been enacted recently in Georgia and Alabama, and that are being considered in Missouri and Louisiana, said the issue probably would compel more female voters to the 2020 polls.

Though the majority of the 2020 Democratic candidates have spoken out against the recent wave of anti-abortion laws, when asked if there was room in the Democratic party for candidates who had a moral objection to abortion, Gillibrand said while “there’s nothing wrong with having a religious perspective on this issue...what I do not accept is any Democratic leader or candidate to not believe in full civil rights and human rights for women.”

Gillibrand, who has struggled to break through the ever-growing field of 2020 Democratic contenders, argued against the notion that the large pool of candidates was hurting her chances of qualifying for the Democratic National Committee’s first debate next month.

“I think primaries are so healthy for our party,” Gillibrand said. “It allows candidates to talk about their vision for America. My vision is to make sure we deal with the real problems this country is facing.”

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