Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) vowed Saturday to strengthen his relationship with dreamers and include them in discussions about major immigration policy changes, such as the drafting of an immigration reform.
Speaking to hundreds of dreamers who gathered in Kansas City, Missouri, this weekend for the United We Dream National Congress, Gutierrez said he wants to have a structured relationship with dreamers. He said he plans to do so by sitting down with dreamers and keeping them informed about the conversations members of Congress are having as it relates to immigration.
“What I know, and as soon as I know it, so will you so you can make the kinds of decisions that are important to winning this movement and this struggle,” he told about 600 dreamers who attended the annual gathering.
Gutierrez also vowed to make dreamers the “vanguards of the movement for immigration reform” by consulting with them before taking action on any future immigration policy changes.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a longtime immigration advocate
The Illinois congressman, who has been in office for 20 years, is a longtime advocate of immigration reform and is the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ immigration task force.
He also introduced the first version of the DREAM Act, legislation that would pave a pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth, in 2001. Back then, it was dubbed the Immigrant Children’s Educational Advancement and Dropout Prevention Act. Ever since then, he has kept advocating for the DREAM Act.
Last summer, he got arrested in front of the White House after participating in act of civil disobedience in support of the bill. In the last few weeks, he has been traveling across the country meeting with dreamers and hearing how deferred action has impacted their lives. Most recently, he joined other members of Congressional Hispanic Caucus and laid out the groundwork for an immigration reform that includes the DREAM Act.
Now, he is reiterating his support for dreamers and their plight.
“If you feel I am of value to you and I can be helpful in winning this fight, you have but one thing to do – exactly what you did this week – call me,” he told dreamers Saturday. “I’ll cancel my schedule, whatever is on there, and I will be there. Tell me where you’re fighting and tell me where you need me to fight with you.”
Dreamers plan to hold Rep. Luis Gutierrez accountable
Most dreamers at the United We Dream National Congress responded to Gutierrez’s comments with applause and some cautioned that they will hold him to his word.
“We have to take what he said with a grain of salt,” said Jorge Gutierrez, an organizer with Dream Team Los Angeles and one of the dreamers who introduced the Democratic congressman to dreamers on Saturday. “What we need to do is keep him accountable to see if he really means that. If he does, we are going to see that through his actions.”
He said his cautious attitude stems from 2010 when Congressman Gutierrez was among the dozens of national Latino leaders who were against pushing for the DREAM Act as a stand-along bill. Instead, the Illinois congressman and others supported including the bill in a broader immigration reform.
At that time, the dreamers’ movement was in favor of the DREAM Act as a stand-alone bill because the political landscape indicated it had better chances of passing. By the end of 2010, the DREAM Act had garnered more support than the proposed immigration reform. It even passed the U.S. House of Representatives but failed in the U.S. Senate by five votes.
The California dreamer and other dreamers contend that if Gutierrez and other Latino leaders would’ve rallied behind the DREAM Act as a stand-alone bill in 2010, it would’ve likely passed.
“There has been tension in the past with Gutierrez, but we have to learn from that and move forward,” the California dreamer told VOXXI. “However, that doesn’t mean that we forget. It means that we have to be strategic. It means that we have to approach politicians with caution as we build these relationships with them.”