Asset Builder Champion Profile: Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez

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Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez has represented Illinois’ Fourth Congressional District in Chicago and Cook County since 1992. Now in his twelfth term, Gutiérrez is the senior member of the Illinois delegation. The 12-term congressman was born and raised in Chicago to parents who emigrated from Puerto Rico in the 1950s. His previously served as a city councilor and Alderman and worked as a teacher, social worker, and cab driver. At Northeastern Illinois University, Rep. Gutiérrez found his passion for social justice issues, writing for the student paper and serving as the president of the Union for Puerto Rican Students.

A nationally recognized leader on issues of importance to Latino and immigrant communities, Rep. Gutiérrez is a tireless champion of immigration reform and the Chairman of the Immigration Task Force of the House Hispanic Caucus. He has been instrumental in advocating deportation relief for certain long-term undocumented immigrants and their families. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and a series of executive actions announced by President Obama in 2014 are partly a result of his activism. His work as a Subcommittee Chairman and a Member of the Financial Services Committee helped pass the Dodd-Frank bill through the House and his work on the Conference Committee was key to getting a final version in front of President Obama.

Recently, the Center for Global Policy Solutions spoke with Rep. Gutiérrez when we announced that he would receive the Asset Building Champion Award at the 2015 Color of Wealth Summit. For those who are interested, the full interview can be found here. What came across most in the interview is his unbridled passion to tackle the issues America faces, despite the overall lack of progress on Capitol Hill today.

Interestingly, the quotes coming from Congress are starting to sound increasingly similar to outside criticisms. The sense of downright exasperation from many on both sides is reaching new proportions, mirrored by Rep. Gutiérrez’ quote, “Money, polls, money, and special interests – and money – drive everything in Washington.” He continued, “Public policy is no longer evaluated by whether it would help the nation.  Rather it is evaluated by many politicians as to whether it makes the other political party look bad, whether it fires up a partisan base that is disconnected in many instances from what most Americans care about, and whether it generates campaign cash.” While this rhetoric is not new, it does demonstrate a noticeable shift – many elected officials are just as frustrated by Congress’ intransigence as those outside Washington. Asked about key bipartisan bills that still made it through in recent years, the Congressman noted that some of the most reformative legislation was one sided. “Major accomplishments like the Dodd-Frank financial reforms and the Affordable Care Act were mostly achieved in the absence of bipartisanship.” Nonetheless, Rep. Gutiérrez notes, bipartisanship is not dead. There is a growing desire for real change, and both sides can come together in order to fix some of the greatest issues, including immigration.

A major advocate for immigration reform and a strong defender of President Obama’s executive order on immigration, Rep. Gutiérrez still urges a rejection of complacency. “It is important to remember that what the President announced is not the reform we have been fighting for,” Rep. Gutiérrez cautioned. He still pushes heavily for legislative reform, arguing that not only does President Obama’s order not go far enough, the United States needs a more firm understanding of the governments intention with regard to immigration. In this regard, the Chicago native believes the House has the bipartisan desire to improve the system, but many are still getting bogged down in political considerations.

“Today, the votes exist to pass immigration reform in the House. But the calculations of the partisanship; who gets credit and how much damage can potentially be done to Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, are too prevalent in the considerations of many Republicans. The boost immigration reform would give to our economy, our security, our communities, and our basic sense of justice and fairness should come first, but tragically does not.”

Written by Alex Bannon.

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