- Democratic Member of Congress
- Member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus
- Proposed legislation granting amnesty and increased benefits to illegal immigrants
- Pressured President Bill Clinton to free convicted FALN terrorists whose bombs had killed six people
- Supports the DREAM Act—legislation designed to create a path-to-citizenship for illegal immigrants who came to the United States as minors
See also: Democratic Party Congressional Progressive Caucus
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 that the area would have 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 terrorists belonging to the FALN, a Marxist-Leninist paramilitary organization. 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 2005 Gutierrez joined the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus. To view a list of additional Caucus members, click here.
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.
At a July 2014 National Council of La Raza convention, Gutierrez told attendees that he was confident that President Obama would use executive action to give legal status to millions of immigrants who were living in the U.S. unlawfully. In a television interview a few days later, Gutiérrez said he would soon be meeting with White House officials “to negotiate additional terms and avenues the president can use” as means of securing amnesty for millions. “I think we can get 3 or 4, maybe even 5 million people,” he stated.
On August 1, 2014—in the midst of a sudden, massive influx across America's southern border by more than 50,000 unaccompanied, illegal-immigrant minors hailing from Central America—Gutierrez asserted that “the real, fundamental problem” with the Republican Party was that its more conservative (and supposedly influential) members were deeply concerned with such matters as: “How do we get meaner, how do we get nastier with immigrants?”
That same day, during a press conference with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Gutierrez accused Republicans of having reached the “least common denominator of hatefulness.” Warning that Hispanics in America would never forget Republicans' anti-immigrant attitudes—as evidenced by GOP opposition to amnesty and to President Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals decision—the congressman added:
- “The way you treat one of us today is the way you have treated all of us, and we will remember that. Not only do they treat the children, that are in such need of protection, it is almost as though they despise and hate all of our children.”
- “Apparently the loudest, meanest, most vile voices are the ones that are dominating the [Republican] caucus, and that’s unfortunate.”
- “Let me also say that look unfortunately, the way they [Republicans] speak about a community, it is almost as if the children, we are a vile, repugnant community to them, that they vilify and demonize in every one of their statements.”
While speaking to the City Club of Chicago in early March 2015, Gutierrez boasted that the Windy City's authorities were routinely defying federal immigration law, and that illegal immigrant students graduating from high school were now able to attend their first two years of college “for free”—i.e., at taxpayer expense. Said the congressman:
“On immigration, I want to let everybody know, the city of Chicago is the friendliest immigrant city in the nation and [Mayor] Rahm Emmanuel had a lot to do with tha. He made sure that we no longer cooperate with immigration authorities when it comes to the deportation and separation of our families by using city structures [sic, strictures]. Nobody can be asked when you enroll your kid in a school or seek out care because you’re injured what your immigration status is, and that’s the law in the city of Chicago. Only in the city of Chicago can you graduate from high school with a ‘B’ average and be guaranteed that you are going to be able to go on to your next two years of college for free—only in Chicago—even if you’re undocumented.”
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.