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ICYMI: Immigration Champion Rep. Luis Gutierrez Captures GOP Lurch to Right on Immigration

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GOP “Shamefully Slams the Door” In The Face Of Gutierrez, All Immigrants Says Sharry 

Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, commented on the riveting testimony of Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) before the House Rules Committee last evening:

Luis Gutierrez has long been one of the leading immigration champions in Congress, willing to work tirelessly with all parties in pursuit of immigration reform legislation.  In the last Congress, Rep. Gutierrez extended his hand repeatedly across the aisle and provided a willing and able partner in selling proposals to the Democratic base.  If House Republicans had followed through and delivered a vote on a reform package, Rep. Gutierrez would have been an essential partner. As a result, Rep. Gutierrez’s comments before the House Rules Committee last evening carry extra weight.  In a powerful testimony, Rep. Gutierrez captured the Republican lurch to the right on immigration and explained the significance and consequences of the GOP’s near-universal embrace this week of deportation-only policy. It is a sad day in America when the GOP shamefully slams the door in the face of a gentlemen and a champion of immigrants.

It’s an essential read (see text of Rep. Gutierrez’s remarks below):

Last month, in this room, at this desk and almost exactly at this hour, I testified before this committee on a bill headed to the floor the next day and my testimony turned into quite a remarkable exchange between the Chairman and myself on the immigration issue.

The bill in question was from Congressman Yoho of Florida and was intended to gut funding for the immigration executive actions that the President had announced in a speech to the nation from the White House on November 20, 2014.

I argued in my testimony that undercutting the President’s executive actions and defunding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program from 2012 was tantamount in my book to calling for the blanket deportation of every undocumented immigrant – all 11 million immigrants in the country illegally – indeed anyone out-of-status who comes in contact with our immigration system.

I tried to lay out the logical extension of that policy, the more than 55,000 jumbo jets we would need to deport all 11 million people and the thousands of airplanes we would need in addition if we were to send their 5 million US citizen children and the millions of legal permanent resident family members along with them.  I discussed the fruit that would rot in the fields if we drove every undocumented immigrant out of the agriculture industry by making them all priorities for deportation.

If you will recall, Mr. Chairman, you were not too happy with me that evening.  You thought it was outrageous to claim that any Member of Congress – or to use your words – (quote) ‘no one in reasonable Republican Leadership’ (end quote) contemplated anything of the kind.

You assured me that you would never contemplate deporting immigrants – quote – ‘unless they were dangerous to this country and committed a crime.’ 

And to suggest anything else was an affront to you personally.

Well, now we are here discussing legislation designed to make certain immigrants a priority for deportation.  They are

1) DREAMers who came to this country as children and submitted their fingerprints for a criminal background check and passed that criminal background check.  The amendments taken together to the DHS Appropriations Bill say they would not only be treated as deportable but would be a priority for deportation equal to any serious criminal. 

2) The spouses of military service members would no longer be protected from deportation while their husbands and wives are fighting for this country overseas.  Actions taken by the President to grant them “parole” would be lifted so that they could also be made a priority for deportation.

3) The victims of domestic violence who come in contact with local police would be lumped right in with the men who are beating them or abusing them and the victims would be made a priority for deportation.

DREAMers, military spouses and victims of domestic violence – these are the three groups Republicans feel are getting too easy a ride under President Obama. 

A President who has deported more people than any other, a President who is protested at every event by immigration activists for deporting too many people, now Republicans are saying we need to deport more DREAMers, more military spouses and more victims of abuse.

In the New York Times, Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona, said that what the Republicans have put forward is designed to satisfy the most conservative elements of the Republican Party on the immigration and deportation issue.  He said he was very happy that Republican Leadership was lining up to give the ‘deport-them-all’ wing of the party everything they asked for.  He said: 

‘This is as close to one hundred percent as we’ve ever gotten on a tough issue like this.’

And my colleague Rep. Aderholt of Alabama in the same article in the New York Times was also very clear.  The goal here is not just to send a signal to the base that Republicans in the House are standing up to what the President announced in November.

He said:

‘The American people were expecting the leadership to step up to the plate and not just make some kind of symbolic gesture in trying to address what the president did back in November, but try to go a step further.’

So we are not just reaching back to the President’s first term to make DREAMers and military spouses deportable, Republicans in the House are saying that the very idea, enshrined in American law, that prosecutors should be able to apply the law so that real threats and criminals are a top priority and non-criminals and non-threats are not a top priority, that whole notion is thrown out the window.

But wait, all of the President’s actions are unconstitutional and he has overstepped his powers in the minds of the Republican majority, but they make one very big exception. 

The President was absolutely acting within the law when he addressed the salaries of our enforcement officers and put them on a par with other federal law enforcement.  The Republicans agree with that so therefore the President has the Constitutional authority.  But when Republicans disagree, the President is a dictator and a rogue.

I find it hard to believe that after the incidents we all saw unfolding overseas with bombings and shootings and hostage taking in recent days that your side wants to play political theater with the federal agency – the biggest law enforcement entity we have – the agency charged with guarding our ports, our cargo, our borders, our airports and our coasts. 

I am astounded that your side thinks this is good politics, good policy, or a way of reassuring the American people that the United States Congress in the hands of the Republican Party is doing everything it can to keep us safe.