Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) said Sunday that the first steps Democrats should take upon gaining the House and Senate is to help families at the border and then get rid of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Speaking in New York, Gillibrand said Democrats should push immigration reform, gun control, and single-payer health care if they get control of Congress. Her top priority was to change the immigration system to help families detained at the border and abolish ICE.
"When we flip the House and flip the Senate, I think the first thing we should do is deal with the children who are being separated from their families at the border," she said. "I think we should get rid of ICE."
She said Democrats should be "looking at immigration as a humanitarian issue" and said immigrants bring diversity that "makes this country and our economy so strong." She is one of several Democrats with her sights set on abolishing ICE, a goal of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and rising star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated House Democratic Caucus chair Joe Crowley in a New York congressional primary last month.
This position appears to conflict with Gillibrand’s past positions on immigration. She had previously opposed giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, and at a town hall on Friday she dodged a question about that issue and talked about abolishing ICE.
Gillibrand also said she wanted to pass sweeping gun-control legislation as soon as they have the majority in Congress.
"We should pass the gun reform issues within the first month–all of them," she said. She listed potential laws on universal background checks and "large magazine clips" as elements in that plan.
"I would just focus on the things that the American people are so angry about," she added.
This would rectify Democrats’ tendency to be too accommodating to Republicans, she said. She went back to Barack Obama’s presidency to say Obamacare was mistakenly too "conservative."
"I don’t know why we didn't start with Medicare for all," she said, referring to a single-payer program supported by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.). "It was such a mistake to build Obamacare on a very moderate, very—almost conservative model of placing it on top of the for-profit insurance industry."
She told a history of the Obamacare legislative process in which Democrats made the bill more moderate to try to get Republicans to vote for it. At the time, however, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) had to have extensive meetings with moderate Democrats to craft a bill that they would be willing to vote for.
"The intention was to bring Republicans on board, to make this a bipartisan bill, but when they all voted against and wouldn’t support the bill, you should’ve gone back to the right answer, which would’ve been Medicare for all," Gillibrand said.
"The lesson of that is be what you’re for, really try to mobilize the American people to support what you’re for," she said.