Gillibrand: ‘I Wouldn’t Use the Detention System at All’

By Holly Kellum

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said she would not detain those who have crossed the border illegally, following an earlier comment in which she said “immigration is not a security issue.”

Gillibrand was asked on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on May 19 whether she supported Senator Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) proposed legislation that would allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to detain families for 100 days instead of the current 20 days.

“I wouldn’t keep them in detention at all,” Gillibrand said.

When pressed by “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan on whether she would support President Obama’s policies on keeping families detained together, she reiterated that she wouldn’t detain anyone crossing the border.

“In fact, 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 our asylum,” she said.

Gillibrand is one of a number of Democratic members of Congress who have called for the elimination of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—the agency responsible for removing aliens who aren’t in the country legally.

That position is going to be a hard sell to voters. A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll last year said that four to one of the 1,999 surveyed opposed abolishing the agency.

According to acting DHS secretary Kevin McAleenan, 87 percent of the aliens arrested by ICE have a criminal record.

“They aren’t ignoring other people they encounter that don’t have a criminal background but who are here unlawfully, but they are apprehending primarily those who are here unlawfully and have a criminal record,” McAleenan said on April 30 at a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security.

DHS has seen record numbers of immigrants showing up at the southwest border, particularly in large caravans and as family units.

In April, Customs and Border Protection reported apprehending 109,144 migrants at the border, compared to 51,168 in April 2018 and 15,798 in April 2017.

A fraction of those cite credible fear, accounting for roughly a quarter of the almost 900,000 immigration case backlog in the United States.  But many who cite credible fear, a prerequisite for filing an asylum claim, don’t follow through with their claim.

According to the Justice Department, 71 percent of those who cite credible fear either don’t show up for their hearing or fail to complete an application for asylum.

Nevertheless, Gillibrand insists that if given the proper resources, asylum seekers will follow the law.

“They don’t need to be incarcerated. They can … if they’re given a lawyer and given a process, they will follow it. They can go into the community,” she said.