Gillibrand defends past stances on immigration: I would tell voters, 'look at my heart’

Gillibrand defends past stances on immigration: I would tell voters, 'look at my heart’
© Getty Images

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on Sunday defended her past stances on immigration, which have come under increased scrutiny since she announced that she will run for president in 2020.

Gillibrand said during an interview on ABC's "This Week" that she would tell voters to "look at my heart" to explain her previous positions. 

"I would tell voters, 'look at my heart, see who I am.' I believe I have the courage and the compassion and fearless determination to do what's right," she said.

Gillibrand has been forced to answer for positions she took when she was a member of the House, where she served one term before being elected to the Senate in 2008.

As a member of the House, Gillibrand opposed amnesty for undocumented immigrants, called border security "a national security priority" and voted to increase funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

She has since shifted on those issues, supporting immigrant rights and calling for ICE to be abolished.

“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 said Sunday.

Gillibrand on Sunday also denounced President TrumpDonald John TrumpTeachers union launches 0K ad buy calling for education funding in relief bill FDA head pledges 'we will not cut corners' on coronavirus vaccine Let our values drive COVID-19 liability protection MORE's rhetoric on border security, saying it has "confused America."

“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."

Trump has demanded that a wall be built along the southern border, claiming that it's necessary to counter what he deems a "humanitarian crisis" at the border.

Trump's demand for the wall sparked an ongoing partial government shutdown, which began Dec. 22 after he refused to sign legislation to fund the government because it didn't include funding for the wall. 

On Saturday, he proposed extending protections for immigrant groups in exchange for wall funding.

The New York Democrat, who last year said she would serve her six-year term if reelected to the Senate, on Sunday also addressed her change in thinking about a 2020 White House bid.

"After we were able to flip the House of Representatives, I took a long, hard thought with my family about whether this is something we should consider. Whether this is a battle that is something that we should take on as a family," she said on CNN's "State of the Union.

"It's an issue that I had to talk to my boys about, the sacrifices they will make. And I needed time to make that decision, a real decision about whether this is something that I believe I am called to do," she added.

"And I do believe that. And that's why I'm running."

--This report was updated at 12:52 p.m.