Gillibrand forced to defend past tough immigration stance after declaring her presidential bid

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., announced only days ago that she is running for president in 2020 and already she is facing criticism about her past statements and stances.

During an interview Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week,” the New York lawmaker – who announced her presidential bid last week on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” – defended herself against scrutiny over her past positions on immigration.

As a member of the House – where she served one term before being elected to the Senate in 2008 – Gillibrand took a much more hardline stance on immigration than her fellow Democratic colleagues. Gillibrand argued against granting amnesty to immigrants entering the country illegally, voted to increase funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and called border security "a national security priority."


The Democratic presidential candidate has since radically shifted her public stance on immigration, becoming a vocal supporter of immigrant rights and calling for ICE to be abolished.

"I would tell voters, 'look at my heart, see who I am,’” Gillibrand said on “This Week” in response to her past positions. “I believe I have the courage and the compassion and fearless determination to do what's right.”

She continued: “Ten years ago, when I became a senator, my job was to represent 20 million people — 20 million people in other places around the state that might have had different concerns and worries and fears than my upstate New York, rural district. And so I listened to them. I met with leaders across my state.”

Gillibrand then went on to criticize President Trump’s rhetoric on immigration and border security.

“What he’s done is he’s confused America," she said. "He’s tried to create fear and division. He's tried to say immigration is about terrorism. Immigration is not about terrorism."

The battle over border security is the main issue keeping the government in a partial shutdown.


Trump on Sunday made an overture to Democrats, saying he would extend temporary protections for young people brought to the U.S. illegally and for those who fled disaster zones if Democrats voted in favor of $5.7 billion for the wall he seeks between the U.S. and Mexico.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., accused Trump of "more hostage-taking," while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump's proposal contains initiatives already rejected by Democrats.

Despite the uphill battle Trump's proposal faces in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he'll take action on the proposal in the Senate this coming week and said it was a fair compromise for ending the shutdown.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.