Gillibrand Blames Her Changing Immigration Stances On Her Constituents

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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Democratic presidential contender Kirsten Gillibrand on Tuesday attributed her former right-wing positions on immigration to her promotion from the House of Representatives to the Senate.

“When I was a member of Congress from upstate New York, I was really focused on the priorities of my district,” Gillibrand, a Democratic senator from New York, said during a CNN town hall. “When I became senator of the entire state, I recognized that some of my views really did need to change.”


Gillibrand’s answer came after a town hall participant asked how she could “stand firm” against President Donald Trump on immigration issues given her own “shaky” record.

Before getting appointed to the Senate in 2009, Gillibrand served New York’s 20th congressional district for just over two years. During her time serving the upstate district, which has been represented by Republicans in the past, the Democratic lawmaker espoused numerous conservative positions on immigration.

Gillibrand previously supported measures such as making English the official language of the country and blocking benefits for illegal migrants. She at one time supported additional funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to increase deportations. The presidential hopeful now says she regrets all of these previous positions.

“[My views] were not thoughtful enough and didn’t care enough about people outside the original upstate New York district that I represented. So I learned,” she explained, then pivoting to an attack on Trump. “I think for people who aspire to be president, I think it’s really important that you’re able to admit when you’re wrong, and that you’re able to grow and learn and listen, and be better and be stronger. That is something that Donald Trump is unwilling to do.” (RELATED: Pentagon Doles Out Nearly $1 Billion In Border Wall Spending Contracts)

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) speaks to a large crowd at the state capitol for the third annual Women's March on January 19, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa

DES MOINES, IA – JANUARY 19: U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) speaks to a large crowd at the state capitol for the third annual Women’s March on January 19, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. Demonstrations are slated to take place in cities across the country in the third annual event aimed to highlight social change and celebrate women’s rights around the world. (Photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images)

Gillibrand has been questioned about her assertions that Trump’s positions on immigration are “racist,” despite her previously supporting some of those same positions.

“You said Trump’s immigration positions are racist — that’s the word you used, racist,” CNN host Jake Tapper asked her in January. “If Trump’s immigration positions are racist, were they racist when you held some of those positions as well?”

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