During her one term in the House of Representatives, from a largely rural, traditionally Republican district, Kirsten E. Gillibrand was on safe political ground adopting a tough stance against illegal immigration.Ms. Gillibrand is hardly an immigration restriction fire breather. Her House votes are somewhat more restrictive than the average congressmen. However, her appointment does mark a clear move towards greater sanity compared to Hillary Clinton.
Ms. Gillibrand, a Democrat, opposed any sort of amnesty for illegal immigrants, supported deputizing local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration laws, spoke out against Gov. Eliot Spitzer's proposal to allow illegal immigrants to have driver's licenses and sought to make English the official language of the United States.
But since her appointment by Gov. David A. Paterson last week to fill the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ms. Gillibrand has found herself besieged by immigrant advocates and Democratic colleagues who have cast her as out of step with a majority of the state, with its big cities and sprawling immigrant enclaves.[Gillibrandâ€™s Immigration Views Draw Fire, January 27, 2009]
What I see this appointment as marking, is the difference between a political regime that is on its way up vs. one that has arrived. On their way up, many black politicians have had to cater to monied interests who are pro-immigration. However, now that Paterson is Governor, he can afford to cater more to the interests of his core constituency—who are working people in places like Harlem.
During the 2004 presidential campaign, I say Al Sharpton on CSPAN getting questioned by some of his constituents on the topic of immigration. The issue was simple: jobs. All the campaign donations in the world won't assure Patterson re-election if he can't deliver jobs for the kinds of folks likely to volunteer for his campaign—or the if black press were to seriously turn against him.
There is no reason other than sentimentality for the Democratic party to show particular loyalty to the Kennedy clan just because Joe Kennedy bought a bunch of politicians back in the FDR era. The immigration policy Teddy and his family supported has been an utter disaster for almost all Americans except the very rich.
I personally applaud Patterson's sensible appointment and look forward to more from him in the future.