While much attention has gone toward President Barack Obama and the “Gang of Eight” senators who proposed guidelines for immigration reform last week, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), a lead champion for immigration reform, has been working behind the scenes.
Gutierrez is part of a secretive group of eight House members who are drafting an immigration reform bill that could be released before Obama’s State of the Union address on Feb. 12, congressional aides told several media outlets.
The group is believed to be composed of four Democrats and four Republicans. In addition to Gutierrez, the Democrats involved in the group include Xavier Becerra and Zoe Lofgren, both from California, as well as John Yarmuth of Kentucky. On the Republicans side are John Carter and Sam Johnson, both from Texas; Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida; and Raul R. Labrador of Idaho.
The Washington Post also reported Tuesday that Labrador—a Puerto Rican, Tea Party favorite and immigration lawyer—has been meeting privately with Gutierrez to discuss immigration reform. Labrador’s background could help Gutierrez garner support from Republicans for an immigration reform in the House.
Gutierrez hasn’t confirmed whether he is a part of this group of House members or whether he has been meeting with Labrador. However, he said in a statement last week that he has been involved in “very constructive conversations with my House colleagues in both parties.”
“I am confident we are poised for action and not just more talk on immigration reform,” he added.
Luis Gutierrez’s decade-long battle for immigration reform
Gutierrez has been fighting for immigration reform for more than a decade.
Along the way, he has been involved in almost every effort to pass an immigration reform bill and other legislations that would benefit undocumented immigrants. He has also been a vocal supporter and even got arrested, along with dozens of immigrant rights advocates, in June 2011 in front of the White House. They had been protesting the record-number of deportations under the Obama administration.
Furthermore, Gutierrez is the chairman of the immigration task force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC). He joined his CHC colleagues last month in a meeting with Obama to discuss immigration reform.
Most recently, he launched a national tour to build support for immigration reform. He also left the House Financial Services Committee, where he was the third ranking Democrat, to rejoin the House Judiciary Committee where he plans to advocate for immigration reform. The committee held its first immigration reform hearing on Tuesday.
“Passing comprehensive immigration reform is my passion and my commitment to my constituents and immigrants all across our country,” Gutierrez said in a statement last month, explaining why he rejoined the House Judiciary Committee.