The State of New York has, throughout its history, been both a haven and a hotbed for immigrants and diversity.  That’s why New York State Governor David Paterson’s decision to pick Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton as U.S. Senator raises deep concern among immigrants and advocates in the state and across the country.

According to the ImmigrationProf Blog, Gillibrand has been a staunch supporter of costly and questionable enforcement tactics, having sponsored the controversial SAVE Act and the largely disputed Legal Employee Verification Act-both of which were supported by designated hate groups and restrictionists including the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and NumbersUSA.  America’s Voice pointed out that,

“…as a member of the House of Representatives, she [Gillibrand] supported policy proposals aimed at driving immigrant workers and families further underground without offering a practical solution to the presence of some 12 million hard working immigrants without immigration papers in the United States.”

Granted, as a Congresswoman in the House of Representatives, Gillibrand represented NY’s conservative 22nd District.  However, she will now be a voice for the state as a whole-from the immigrant-bustling City of New York to small Upstate cities like Utica, Rome, New Hartford, and other Mohawk Valley towns which have been havens for immigrants and refugees since before World War II.

Even with a slumping economy, the majority of Americans support immigration reforms that move undocumented workers out of the shadows and onto the tax rolls and New York State is no exception.  Not only does New York State account for 1 in 10 immigrants in the country, 1 in 5 residents is an immigrant.  Immigration reform is bound to be particularly important in the state.   Newsday’s Spin Cycle aptly points out that Gillibrand’s immigration record “would certainly help fend off anti-immigrant attacks from the Peter Kings of the world, but could be exploited in a Democratic primary.”

President Obama, along with the 2008 Democratic Party Platform, decisively supported the enactment of comprehensive immigration reform in the 111th Congress.  As Senator, Gillibrand will be faced with the momentous opportunity to implement the will of the majority of her constituents and fight side-by-side with her President and her Party for fair and humane immigration policies.  And if Gillibrand plans on running to keep her seat in 2010, rethinking her position and even championing comprehensive immigration reform will be key to winning the over 8,142,871 votes of New Americans who will be flocking to NY polls with immigration as one of the issues at the forefront of their minds.