- Democratic Member of Congress
- Member of the Progressive Caucus
- Proposed legislation granting amnesty and increased benefits to illegal immigrants
- Pressured President Clinton to free convicted FALN terrorists whose bombs had killed six people
Luis Gutierrez was born in Chicago on December 10, 1953, to parents of Puerto Rican ancestry. After graduating with an English degree from Northeastern Illinois University in 1977, he spent approximately seven years working variously as a cab driver, schoolteacher, community activist, and social worker.
From 1984-86 Gutierrez, a Democrat, served as an advisor to Mayor Harold Washington of Chicago. In 1986 Gutierrez was elected alderman of that city's mostly-Hispanic 26th Ward. At the time, he was a member of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, a Marxist-Leninist entity.
In 1992 Gutierrez won a seat in the U.S. Congress, representing the newly formed Fourth District of Illinois. Gerrymandered from neighborhoods and suburbs west of downtown Chicago, this bizarrely shaped, 75-percent Latino district was designed by Democrats not only to guarantee the area a Latino Representative in Congress, but also to concentrate so many Latinos into a single district that they would pose little threat of unseating any black Democrat in the vicinity. Since then, Gutierrez has been re-elected every two years to the House of Representatives, where he is a member of both the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. His political campaigns have drawn significant support from the Democratic Socialists of America.
In the mid-1990s, Gutierrez developed close ties to the pro-socialist New Party in Chicago. In 1995-96 he was a board of directors member of Illinois Public Action, the state's largest public-interest organization, along with such notables as Robert Creamer, Lane Evans, Alice Palmer, Jan Schakowsky, and Quentin Young. And in 1997 Gutierrez served on the board of Citizen Action of Illinois.
In 1999 Gutierrez collaborated with fellow Progressive Caucus members Jose Serrano and Nydia Velazquez to pressure President Bill Clinton (through Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder) to free 16 convicted FALN terrorists. For details, click here.
During his years in Congress, Gutierrez has cultivated a reputation as the Democratic Party's leading strategist and spokesperson on immigration issues, and has been at the forefront of the effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation. In 2001 he became the first elected official to sponsor a version of the DREAM Act—legislation designed to create a path-to-citizenship for illegal immigrants who came to the United States as minors.
In 2004 Gutierrez was a guest speaker at a “Take Back America” conference organized by the Campaign for America's Future, an organization dominated by the Democratic Socialists of America and the Institute for Policy Studies.
In 2008 Gutierrez was appointed to the National Latino Advisory Council of Barack Obama's presidential campaign, along with such notables as Xavier Becerra, Henry Cisneros, Raul Grijalva, Eliseo Medina, Linda Sanchez, Hilda Solis, and
The following year, Gutierrez co-sponsored the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act, a bill to create a pathway-to-citizenship for non-criminal illegal immigrants. He also led a multi-city tour whose purpose was to draw public attention to the hardships that immigrant families and communities were experiencing as a result of deportations.
In 2010 Gutierrez threatened to oppose the Democratic healthcare-reform bill because it included provisions that would prohibit illegal immigrants from purchasing coverage through government-run exchanges. He ultimately decided to back the legislation, however, because he was confident that Congress would soon “move forward on a comprehensive immigration reform package.” But later that year, Gutierrez, dissatisfied with the pace of progress on immigration reform, openly encouraged acts of nonviolent civil disobedience to force Congress to act. “We cannot be a slave to the legislative process,” he said. “That’s what we’ve done, and it hasn’t served us very well.”
In late July 2011, Gutierrez was arrested for participating in a sit-in outside the White House to demand that President Obama stop the deportation of illegal immigrants.
At an August 2013 town hall event in Chantilly, Virginia, Gutierrez warned that if a comprehensive immigration-reform bill was not passed soon:
“[S]omeone is going to die in that [Southwestern U.S.] desert trying to return to their families.... Someone’s going to lose a finger, a hand, an eye, a life today because an unscrupulous employer is going to put them in harm’s way. Someone’s going to die. There’s a woman that’s going to be raped in a field somewhere in America today because she has no rights in this country, and we need to end that.... There are children who are going to cry and there are marriages that are going to be destroyed because someone is going to be deported, and there are going to be children that are going to be left orphaned in this country.”
On October 8, 2013, Gutierrez was one of eight members of Congress (all Democrats) who were arrested when they sat in the middle of Independence Avenue and blocked rush-hour traffic during an immigration rally on Washington’s National Mall. The 15,000-plus demonstrators called for the passage of legislation allowing illegal immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship. Also arrested were Representatives Joseph Crowley, Keith Ellison, Al Green, Raul Grijalva, John Lewis, Charles Rangel, and Jan Schakowsky.
For an overview of Luis Gutierrez's voting record on numerous key issues during the course of his congressional career, click here.
For additional information on Luis Gutierrez, click here.