Gutierrez changes tune with Obama on immigration
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) speaks at a Capitol Hill press conference (Getty Images)
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) did something out of the ordinary on Tuesday: he praised President Obama on immigration.
Gutierrez, who represents a Latino-majority district on Chicago’s South Side, has been one of Obama’s most-fervent critics on the issue of immigration reform from the left. But the administration’s recent decision to ease its deportation policies for some undocumented immigrants had the congressman singing a different tune.
“This is the Barack Obama we were waiting for,” he said at a Windy City press conference, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. “Sometimes it takes 30 years. But he showed up.”
He also said he would fully support Obama in the wake of the decision.
“With the same energy, fervor and commitment that we had in challenging your administration to do the right thing for our immigrant community – that will be the same fervor, energy and commitment in supporting you as president of the United States of America,” he said.
Gutierrez’s comments could be a sign that Latino-rights activists could be ready to cut back on the public pressure they have put on Obama over his immigration policies ahead of the 2012 elections, where the president needs high turnout from Latino voters.
Activists — including Gutierrez — have expressed frustration over the lack of progress on comprehensive immigration reform and have urged Obama to use executive powers to implement parts of an immigration reform bill.
The president said that he would not resort to such measures during a speech at the National Council of La Raza, but he has shown he is willing to make smaller changes to existing policies via the executive branch.
To illustrate how big of a shift Gutierrez’s words are, at least rhetorically, Univision News has pulled five of the toughest critiques the congressman has leveled at the president over the past year-plus (in no particular order):
- August 1, 2011: Gutierrez is arrested in front of the White House protesting the administration’s deportation policies.
“I cannot sit quietly and wait for President Obama to act while communities
are still under siege,” he later wrote.
- April 18, 2011: The outspoken congressman — and chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s Immigration Task Force — says he might not support Obama in 2012 because of his record on immigration.
“I want to support Barack Obama for reelection,” Gutierrez told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “But the lack of progress on immigration reform and the lack of action that Barack Obama, our president, has — the discretion he has — is really making that job difficult for me.”
- April 20, 2010: Gutierrez says Latinos could stay home from the polls in 2012 if Obama doesn’t make a serious effort to pass immigration reform.
“We can stay home,” Gutierrez said in an interview with The Hill. “We can say, ‘You know what? There is a third option: We can refuse to participate.’”
- March 17, 2010: Gutierrez flips Obama’s “change” campaign mantra for excluding illegal immigrants from the healthcare reform law.
“Now, for Latinos in this country —for anyone who cares about fair, comprehensive and humane immigration reform— Barack Obama has delivered ‘change.’ It’s been a change for the worse,” he wrote in the Huffington Post.
- May 10, 2011: The congressman disses Obama’s speech on immigration in El Paso, Texas.
“The president’s diagnosis of the policy and the political problem is perfect, but his proposed remedy — waiting for the Congress to pass a bill — misses the urgency of the problem,” he said in a statement.