Rep. Gutierrez to Continue His Quest for CIR

Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez, one of the leading Congressional advocates for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) announced last week that he does not plan to enter the Chicago mayoral race, as had been widely predicted; instead, he plans to continue his campaign to seek a fundamental re-write of U.S. immigration law, with a view to creating a path to citizenship for the estimated 10.8 million unauthorized immigrants currently living here. (See Focused on Immigration Reform, Gutierrez Not Running for Mayor,” by Abdon M. Pallasch, Chicago Sun-Times, 15.Oct.2010.) As the Chicago Sun-Times reported, Gutierrez announced his decision to a crowd of supporters at the University of Chicago, telling them he was not willing to give up his fight for CIR to run for mayor.

There can be little doubt about Mr. Gutierrez’s commitment to CIR, but as the Chicago Sun-Times notes, his decision not to run also may have been influenced by a recent federal investigation of his alleged lobbying on behalf of a donor; he also may have been daunted by the large number of Democratic candidates who have thrown their hats in the ring, including former White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, a former Illinois Congressman whose mayoral bid is likely to have some serious Washington muscle behind it.

Where does this leave one of the most vocal immigration reform advocates in Congress? Assuming he’s reelected this fall, Mr. Gutierrez may become a champion for incrementalism, bipartisan compromise, and getting half a loaf rather than nothing. At an immigration reform rally in Cleveland earlier this month, Rep. Gutierrez told the crowd they may have to lower their expectations. (See Chicago’s Luis Gutierrez Preaches Lower Expectations for Immigration Reform, by Robert L. Smith, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12.Oct.2010.) According to the Plain Dealer, Gutierrez told the crowd that immigration reform may be an impossible dream, if it can’t be achieved with a Democratic congress and a pro-immigrant president. The Plain Dealer quoted Gutierrez as saying that, “Maybe it’s time to change the language, to change the strategy, to change what it is we’re shooting for.” He blamed a “Republican blockade” for the demise of CIR legislation in the current Congress, and held out little hope that this would change in a lame duck session, after the election.

Has Rep. Gutierrez given up the fight for comprehensive immigration reform? Clearly not. His statement in Cleveland seems less an admission of defeat than a recognition of political reality. In the words of Bob Dylan, “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows… .” The only question at this point is how strong a headwind he and other CIR advocates will be fighting, come January.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.