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Monday, October 21, 2013

  • "Still Dreaming": Immigrant Rights Champion Rep. Luis Gutiérrez on Life of Activism & Politics


    As pressure grows for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform now that the government shutdown is over, we spend the hour with one of those leading the fight. Democratic Rep. Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois has been working to improve immigration policies since he won his congressional seat in the early 1990s. Most recently he helped author the bipartisan proposal for reform in the House. Earlier this month, Gutiérrez and seven other members of Congress were arrested protesting Washington’s failure on immigration. His arrest came as the number of undocumented immigrants deported under President Obama approaches two million — more than under any other president. "I want a president of the United States that signs a comprehensive immigration bill for two reasons: Number one, it stops the deportation and it brings justice, fairness, and equity to the immigrant community; and number two, I want Barack Obama to be known as the president that led us to 11 million people reaching freedom in this country," Gutiérrez says. The immigration protest was not the first time Gutiérrez has been arrested for civil disobedience. In 2000, he was arrested for protesting the U.S. military for using the inhabited Puerto Rican island of Vieques as a bombing range. Gutiérrez has just written a memoir, "Still Dreaming: My Journey from the Barrio to Capitol Hill." We talk about his time living in Puerto Rico, the night his house in Chicago was firebombed, his embrace of civil disobedience over the years, and his political mentor, Harold Washington, Chicago’s first African-American mayor. Gutiérrez also talks about his next challenge: securing enough votes in the House to pass an immigration bill. "I create new friendships and new relationships in regards to comprehensive immigration reform, because let’s face it: Democrats didn’t do it in 2007 and 2008 when we were in the majority; Democrats didn’t do it in 2009 and 2010, we were in the majority. Now, we’ve got to do it," he says. "We have the majority in Senate. They’ve done their job, and I have to figure out a way to take our minority of 201 Democrats and get to 218 votes. There’s only one way you can do that, and that’s working with Republicans. We must put the lives of the immigrant community ahead of bipartisan politics."