Politics

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Meet Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

After starting her political career with hawkish views on immigration, New York's junior senator now wants to abolish ICE

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has raced to the far Left of the Democratic Party on immigration, going so far as to call for the replacement of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

She would have met strong resistance from an up-and-coming congresswoman from upstate New York a decade ago.

Kirsten Gillibrand, meet Kirsten Gillibrand.

As a candidate in a Republican-leaning district near Albany and later as a representative serving that district, Gillibrand (pictured above) was an outlier among Democrats on immigration. Early in her tenure, she had a B grade from NumbersUSA, an organization that lobbies for lower levels of immigration. That placed her among the top 22 Democrats in the House of Representatives.

Gillibrand was a co-sponsor of the Secure America through Verification and Enforcement (SAVE) Act, which would have required businesses to use the E-Verify system to confirm the legal status of new hires; increased grants to ICE and improved the deportation process; and added staffing, technology and funding to border enforcement.

The congresswoman favored cracking down on “sanctuary” jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with ICE. As recently as 2009, immediately following her appointment to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate, she was against amnesty for illegal immigrants.

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“I don’t support amnesty because I don’t think it will work,” she told The New York Times then, adding that the amnesty bill under consideration was “fatally flawed.”

Gillibrand was especially critical of a guest-worker provision, telling The Times that it would have “all but guaranteed illegal immigration.”

In 2007, then-Rep. Gillibrand aggressively opposed a proposal by Democrat then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer to give state driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants and called him to register her objections.

“I’ve heard this nonstop for the last five weeks,” she told The Times.

Gillibrand said there should be a national standard for licenses. As to Spitzer’s plan, she said, “I don’t think it should be implemented. It’s not a good idea.”

The governor eventually abandoned the idea, and Gillibrand took something of a victory lap.

“I’ve always believed this is the wrong approach,” she said.

So hostile was Gillibrand to the agenda of mass immigration activists that they blasted then-Gov. David Paterson when he appointed her to the Senate seat.

“If Gov. David Paterson wanted to deliver a slap to immigrant New Yorkers, he effectively did so with his appointment yesterday of Representative Kirsten Gillibrand,” the Spanish-language newspaper El Diario wrote in an editorial.

Related: Democrats Are Split on Calls for Abolishing ICE

Those days are long gone, however. It did not take the politically ambitious Gillibrand long to pivot away from her immigration views — and her positions on other issues — once she acquired a larger constituency.

As she was in the House, Gillibrand is an outlier on immigration — only now, she stands on the polar opposite end of the spectrum. Her most recent rating from NumbersUSA is an F, and her lifetime grade is a D-minus.

Last week, the woman who had sponsored legislation to increase funding for ICE and enhance its deportation powers lamented that it “has become a deportation force.” She told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, “And that’s why I believe you should get rid of it, start over, reimagine it and build something that actually works.”

PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

(photo credit, article image: Senator Kristen Gillibrand, Mirrored/Gradient, CC BY-SA 2.0, by personaldemocracy)

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