Monday, January 26, 2009

Gillibrand's Latino Problem

January 24, 2009

Incoming Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's photo and the blaring headline "ANTI INMIGRANTE" grace the cover of today's El Diario - just one more example of the hurdles facing the upstate Democrat as she tries over the next 19 months to win over downstate voters in advance of the 2010 primary challenge she is almost certain to face.


The accompanying story quotes Assemblyman Peter Rivera, the senior Hispanic member of the state Legislature, who released a statement yesterday slamming Gillibrand, saying he saw "no compelling reason" for the governor to have selected someone whose "hard-line stand" on immigration "borders on xenophobia."

El Diario also quotes from Gillibrand's Web site, which lays out her positions on immigration thusly:

"In Congress, Congresswoman Gillibrand has been a firm opponent of any proposal that would give amnesty to illegal aliens. The federal government must provide the necessary resources to secure our borders, which is critical for America’s economic and national security.

She strongly supports legislation that would significantly increase the number of border patrol agents and place sophisticated technology along the Southern border to catch human and drug smugglers.

Congresswoman Gillibrand authored and passed an amendment that will prevent employers who have hired illegal aliens from receiving federal contracts.

In addition, Congresswoman Gillibrand believes English should be made the official language of the United States and she opposes providing non-emergency taxpayer benefits to illegal aliens. As a Member of the Agriculture Committee, she has advocated for a review of the current H-2A visa system, so that farmers will have access to legal workers when they cannot find Americans to fill their labor needs.

Chung-Wa Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition called Gillibrand's stances on immigration issues “deeply troubling."

A reader who drew my attention to the El Diario cover also noted the irony in the fact that at the outset of the 53-day Odyssey that was Paterson's search for Clinton's replacement, he talked about the need for the Hispanic community to be better represented in state government.

The need to empower Hispanic elected officials also played a role in the Senate leadership battle, leading to the creation of a new Latino Task Force by Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, which will be led, not by Sen. Hiram Monserrate or Sen. Martin Dilan but by a Gang of Three member, Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr.

The dearth of Hispanic representation in the upper echelons of New York leadership came up again in connection with the selection of a replacement for retired Chief Judge Judith Kaye.

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