MSNBC: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, in a town hall with MSNBC's Chris Hayes, talks about the challenges with the current rhetoric around border security and immigration.
"Immigration is not a security issue," Gillibrand said. "It is an economic and a humanitarian and a family issue. So there is no such thing as an illegal human."
From the Monday night town hall event:
RICK JOSEPH, MICHIGAN RESIDENT: I started my career in Chicago as a bilingual (inaudible) teacher, Spanish is my second language and as a National Board certified teacher I`m aware of the role that teachers play as leaders. I also was recently in El Paso, Texas, and I`m happy to report the only crisis on our border has been manufactured by this administration.
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): True facts.
JOSEPH: And I would was there through an organization called Teachers Against Child Detention and my colleagues Amy (ph) (inaudible) teaches refugees and immigrants in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and one of her student wrote this poem, I want to read it to you.
She`s from El Salvador. She says, there was nowhere else to but here. No schools to danger. No friends to danger. No life to danger. (Inaudible) -- the painted ones, in the (inaudible) too much danger. They rape, they rape, they rape, they kill. Girls have no chance. There was nowhere else to go but here.
So the refugees that come to our Southern border, they come because of these dire situations, so I`m wondering what you will do as president to address these issues related to immigration and how we can uphold our immigration policies so that we enshrine asylum seekers and refugees and give them the opportunity to practice their rights and seek asylum. And then in -- on a greater level how can we address equity issues at the federal level for education policy so we make sure that we are supporting equitable funding initiatives across our country?
GILLIBRAND: So, immigration first to me (ph), education second. I believe that immigration has always been a strength of this country. Our country was largely founded by immigrants and largely built by immigrants. Our diversity has always been our strength. It`s what creates entrepreneurialism, in the nation all across America for our entire history and in our best moments we have not of been afraid of immigrants. In our worst moments we have.
We have a Statue of Liberty standing in New York Harbor with that beacon of light and hope saying, send us your tired and your hungry, send us you huddled mass of yearning to breathe free. She stands for something. She stands for the fact that this country has always welcomed it -- not always, its best moments welcomed immigrants and that is not what we`re seeing from this president today.
What he has done on the border is inhumane and intolerable. He is separating families, children from parents, mothers from babies and locking up people in facilities that are run by for-profit prison companies. It`s an outrage. I would get rid of all that. That should not be under ICE, it should not be under Homeland Security.
Immigration is not a security issue. It is an economic and a humanitarian and a family issue. So there is no such thing as an illegal human.
GILLIBRAND: I believe we have to fundamentally transform how we treat people seeking asylum and refuge, because in my state and I know in your state, you have immigrant populations across this state. Refugee populations that make your economy stronger, that make your city and states stronger, that makes this country stronger, we should not be afraid of refugees and asylum seekers and mothers and babies seeking our help.
DAVID SANCHEZ, MICHIGAN RESIDENT: Senator, thank you. Yes, I`m from one of those immigrant communities you talk about, Southwest Detroit, born and raised in Detroit. My grandfather came to Southwest Detroit in the 50s just to make a better life for himself and his family and me, his grandson, right, which is working out. So, I really appreciating him for that. And there`s still family there that are making life for themselves, creating that beautiful culture, diverse culture that you`re talking about, but there`s also Michigan being right off of the border, border patrol and ICE that is devastating families.
A lot of earlier immigrants decades and centuries ago didn`t have to go through a huge militarized police force to begin to start their lives here, right? I know grandmothers that have been detained in detention, low hanging fruit who check in with ICE all the time. I know grandmothers that have tethers on their ankles, unfortunately. All right?
And my question is to you -- so for one, as a immigrant rights organizer, I found a really great policy that -- that I supported and tried to get the senators in Michigan to support the DATA Act, which you sponsored. And what that does is put some oversight on ICE and border patrol and collects data of who they`re doing traffic stops for.
SANCHEZ: Right? And that`s how we can see if it`s racial bias or anything like that. And I`m wondering how you would get Democrats and Republicans together -- right now it seems like we`re so far to the right. A lot of conservative people have taken the country a step backward. I`m wondering how you can bring us back to do things that just make sense, to hold up our freedoms and values that we hold so dear.
GILLIBRAND: I think you have to talk about common ground. Because the truth is everyone knows that diversity is a strength no matter where you go in this country because they see it. So I would just remind them about why immigration -- and our story as Americans shows that our strongest and best moments are when we welcomed immigrants and our lowest and darkest moments are when we did not, -- and remind people how important immigration is. But the bill that you mention is something that I authored because we have a community and border too. And anyone here in Michigan knows we do enormously great things with Canada.
We have economics, we have businesses, cross-border transactions, we have kids going on field trips. This is why our border matters and the way people are treated at that border really matters, that`s why I authored the legislation to say we need transparency and accountability, we need to know how many times they`re stopping someone, what they`re stopping them for. Are they stopping them because they don`t like the color of their skin or are they stopping them because they actually have a concern? That`s the data we don`t have and that`s why I supported that bill, because we have to get rid of institutional racism.
And we have institutional racism in so many parts of our communities, we see it in the criminal justice system but we also see it in every day instances like healthcare, education and jobs. And this is one area where I think transparency and accountability can help us.