Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) said she "wouldn't use the detention system at all" to deal with the immigration crisis at the southern border, if elected president.
Gillibrand's comments came during a Sunday appearance on CBS's Face the Nation. Host Margaret Brennan asked the 2020 presidential contender if she supported stopping family separation and instead would support keeping families detained together. Gillibrand said she did not.
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"You oppose even what the Obama administration did in terms of keeping families together or for longer period of time in detention?" Brennan said.
"I wouldn't put them in detention at all," Gillibrand said. "As president of the United States, I wouldn't use the detention system at all. 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. I would defund these for-profit prison systems that are harming children and harming families who are seeking asylum. If someone is seeking asylum, I would hire them a lawyer."
"Homeland security is saying hundreds of thousands of people are crossing the border and they need to go somewhere before their asylum claims are actually heard," Brennan replied. "What would you do with them?"
"They don't need to be incarcerated. If they're given a lawyer and a process, they will follow it," Gillibrand said. "They can go into community in the way we used to handle these cases under the Department of Justice."
A crisis has unfolded at the United States's southern border with Mexico over the past several months, as thousands of immigrants have sought refuge from oppressive regimes in Central and South America. President Donald Trump addressed the crisis during a speech on Thursday.
"Our proposal fulfills our sacred duty to those living here today, while ensuring America remains a welcoming country to immigrants joining us tomorrow. And we want immigrants coming in," he said. "We cherish the open door that we want to create for our country, but a big proportion of those immigrants must come in through merit and skill."