“The best of Congress is to be found far from the polarized, dysfunctional politics on Capitol Hill in a year when the American people have given Congress the lowest approval ratings in the history of polling,” wrote Juan Williams in the Hill on Monday, in a post where he names his Congressman of the Year: Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL).
For those of you not familiar with the Representative, Gutierrez is a ten-term Congressman from Chicago, the first Latino Congressmember from the Midwest and is one of the top Latino elected officials in the U.S. He’s widely recognized as the “national leader on comprehensive immigration reform” and is a tireless advocate for comprehensive federal immigration reform.
This year alone, he’s traveled all over the nation to speak out against ultra-harsh state immigration laws like the ones in Alabama, South Carolina, and Georgia. He launched a 20-city “Change Takes Courage” tour—paid for out of his own campaign contributions—to push the Obama administration to provide executive relief for non-criminal immigrants. He rocked a panel at Netroots Nation discussing what national leaders must do to captivate the growing Latino vote demographic. He led a protest in front of the White House against President Obama’s deportation policy and was arrested for it. He’s continued pushing for the federal DREAM Act, fought against the unnecessary deportations of DREAMers and other immigrants, and demanded that the White House begin implementing their new prosecutorial discretion policy.
More recently, he led a delegation of nine other Congressmembers on a fact-finding mission to Birmingham, Alabama to investigate HB 56, the nation’s harshest state immigration law. They attended a mass rally against the legislation at the historic 16th Street Baptist Church, which drew attention to the civil rights and humanitarian crisis that has unfurled in the state and evoked comparisons to the Civil Rights Movement.
And just last week, Gutierrez was credited for helping to secure the release of an undocumented Alabama woman who was stopped for driving without lights and arrested for not having a driver’s license. The 19-year-old was scheduled to be deported even though she has no criminal record, is married to a U.S. citizen, and has an American-born daughter.
For all of these efforts, Juan Williams wrote of Gutierrez:
It is this ability to act strategically as well as to use his voice to speak for millions of voiceless immigrants living in America that makes the congressman’s work stand out this year […]
By acting on principle and speaking honestly to both Democrats and Republicans, Gutierrez is offering a clear contrast to the politicians who pander to mindless anti-immigrant anger with calls for electrified fences and talk of terror babies […]
History will record Gutierrez as a molder of consensus on immigration in a difficult time. That is why he is my “Congressman of the Year.”
We here at America’s Voice, of course, praise Gutierrez and applaud his principled leadership. As our own Executive Director, Frank Sharry said to Williams:
He’s as close as the Latino community has to a Martin Luther King figure.
As the 2012 elections heat up and the immigration issue continues to be bandied about by the Republican presidential candidates, we certainly could use a few more champions like Gutierrez.