FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2018 file photo Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks to supporters during an election night watch party in New York. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker has sponsored a marijuana legalization bill and it’s supported by California Sen. Kamala Harris and fellow Sens. Gillibrand of New York, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Gillibrand seeks to improve asylum process for immigrants

March 21, 2019 - 6:26 pm

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand pitched her ideas Thursday to improve the asylum process while touring a law clinic at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas that helps immigrants with legal matters.

The senator from New York kicked off her first presidential campaign trip to Nevada by meeting with immigration law students. The 2020 White House hopeful took notes while the students described the cases they've worked on and the problems they've encountered in the U.S. legal system as they try to help immigrants, including unaccompanied minors.

Gillibrand, who has stressed her role as a mother on the campaign trail, spoke to the students while she picked up and examined several small pieces of canvass with painted handprints of those unaccompanied children whose cases were handled by the clinic.

The Democrat said she's working on legislation that would guarantee asylum seekers a lawyer, create a system for Americans to foster immigrant children and break out immigration judges from under the U.S. Department of Justice so they can be independent.

"We want unbiased judges that are appointed for life so they can do the right thing, not the political thing," she told reporters.

Immigration reform is a prime issue in Nevada, which has a sizeable population of immigrants living in the U.S. without legal permission and 13,000 young immigrants seeking protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

"I think this is a huge issue for all of America," Gillibrand said. "I think we have a crisis at the border that has been literally manufactured by President Trump, entirely creating a humanitarian crisis of separating families."

She planned to meet Thursday afternoon with former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and mingle with voters at a downtown Las Vegas bar.