Sooner Than Expected: Latino Congressman to Introduce Immigration Bill Ahead of White House

Chicago Congressman Luis Gutierrez will introduce his own immigration reform bill. (Photo: Rep. Gutierrez website)

Chicago Congressman Luis Gutierrez will introduce his own immigration reform bill. (Photo: Rep. Gutierrez website)

While President Obama’s immigration proposal seems months away from any serious consideration, a Latino congressman from the president’s hometown has announced he will draft an alternative bill by October 13 and introduce it in the House “soon thereafter.”

Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez (D.-Ill.) announced his decision last week, which he said came at the urging of immigrant advocates.

Obama has charged Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York with drafting the government’s bill. Schumer had said the proposal would have been ready by Labor Day but, according to La Opinión, the health care debate derailed those plans.

“Today, at (a) rally in Washington DC, advocacy groups from across the country called upon Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) to present a progressive, comprehensive immigration bill. Rep. Gutierrez agreed that he will outline the fundamental principles of such legislation by October 13 and introduce a comprehensive bill soon thereafter.”

[ Gutierrez press release ]

Gutierrez has been insistent in pushing for a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes the legalization of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

Earlier this year, when there was barely a hint that the Obama White House might stall on immigration reform, the congressman was busy building up pressure to keep the issue on the table. In February, less than a month into the new Democratic administration, he went on a nationwide tour to “document the harm caused to citizens across our nation in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform.”

Gutierrez now says he will talk to “faith-based groups, labor groups and my colleagues on the Hill — particularly the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.”

“We need a bill that says if you come here to hurt our communities, we will not support you; but if you are here to work hard and to make a better life for your family, you will have the opportunity to earn your citizenship. We need a law that says it is un-American for a mother to be torn from her child, and it is unacceptable to undermine our workforce by driving the most vulnerable among us further into the shadows.”

The representative added he will draft a bill “that keeps our families together, protects our workers and allows a pathway to legalization for those who have earned it.”

“Saying immigration is a priority for this Administration or this Congress is not the same as seeing tangible action, and the longer we wait, the more every single piece of legislation we debate will be obstructed by our failure to pass comprehensive reform.”

Sen. Schumer has announced “seven principles” that will give form to his proposal, including the need to “curtail future illegal immigration,” to have “operational control of our borders,” and a “biometric-based employer verification system.”

Schumer’s principles include some harsh language, generally avoided by Democrats in the past, like saying that “all illegal aliens present in the United States on the date of enactment of our bill must quickly register their presence with the United States Government –and submit to a rigorous process of converting to legal status and earning a path to citizenship– or face imminent deportation.”

The senator has said Democrats need to get tougher on illegal immigration if they want to pass this bill. This changed approach was also reflected in President Obama’s recent speech to Congress, when he described unauthorized immigrants as “illegal” rather than “undocumented,” a term he preferred during his campaign.

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