APN Chat with US Rep. Gutierrez (D-IL) on Immigration Reform


(APN) NORCROSS — US Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) visited Norcross this weekend, joining about 3,000 concerned individuals and activists at a rally and prayer vigil, to highlight the need for immigration reform that is sensitive to the fact that families with children are being impacted.

Gutierrez, who is Puerto Rican by heritage, also discussed the issue of immigration policy with Atlanta Progressive News at length in a phone interview, calling for a moratorium on deportations until the federal government could comprehensively review their policy.

The interview covered the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), realistic pathways to citizenship, and President Obama’s campaign promises.

“There is a need to have a complete review of the policies of the practice of deporting immigrant childcare and a moratorium on the deportations, until Congress is able to act,” Gutierrez told Atlanta Progressive News.

“It is like helping people who are in trouble with their mortgages and then using the power of the Government to evict them. Which is it? Comprehensive immigration is powerful and we need a complete re-evaluation,” he said.

“The community of undocumented fate and testimonies are unknown to most Americans. The woman who uses the Windex at the airport is not a threat to United States security,” Gutierrez said.

“We need to reprioritize and to deport those who sell drugs, those who smuggle, and those who have come to the United States to be terrorists and do us harm,” Gutierrez said.

“Does it make the United States safer to deport Mom and Dad? Who will pay taxes for the children now? Who will feed them? We need to re-evaluate our policies,” Gutierrez said.

“All trade agreements should include immigration. I voted against NAFTA because I thought it would crush agriculture in Mexico. How can they compete with American corn or crops?” Gutierrez said.

“It is like the industrial revolution. People would leave the farm and go to the city in droves, and in the case of Mexico the city would be the United States. Mexican agriculture cannot compete. But immigration should be part of NAFTA or any other trade agreement,” Gutierrez said.

Some politicians are proposing an immigration policy that would send immigrants back to their country of origin, impose a heavy fine, and allow the immigrants to apply for reentry after several years.

“For people with a job and family it is easier to be illegal than legal if a large fine is involved and forced deportation,” the interviewer noted. “How can it be made easier to be legal than illegal?”

“We need a new conversation with a new team of people so there is a new plan,” Gutierrez responded.

“There is no plan which has been formulated under Barack Obama yet. We are not saying it will be formulated next week. It may be done in two months, we don’t know,” Gutierrez said.

“This campaign is to keep 5 million kids who are American citizens united with their families. These children are not illegal, they are American citizens. Obama said he would bring comprehensive immigration reform so that everyone could come out of the shadows,” Gutierrez said.

“You can’t with one hand offer a path to legalization and with the other use the power of the government to deport,” Gutierrez said.

“That is why we are doing faith based events. After 17 years in Congress this is the first time faith based organizations have become involved, with social justice issues. Faith does not allow them to just witness injustice. They have to act.”

“We want Barack Obama to keep his promises.”

Gutierrez also argued the US economy is dependent on immigrants.

“If you took all the undocumented workers from New York, or Los Angeles, or Atlanta you would pay a heavy toll. They are not all Mexicans by the way. 40% of the undocumented workers entered the United States legally and overstayed their visas. These are temporary workers and students and they number in the millions.”

“These people are from Liberia, China, and Ireland. If tomorrow these people disappeared there would be economic chaos. New York would be a wasteland. They buy homes and fix them, they have businesses. Somehow the people think they do not pay property tax, they do not pay sales tax, they do not pay Social Security and state and federal tax,” Gutierrez said.

“In fact millions and millions of dollars in the Social Security fund come from undocumented workers who will never collect a cent. They cannot touch a penny. They do not ask for services from the government even for their American citizen children who are entitled to them, because they are afraid. They do not reach out for a penny.”


The Family Unity rally was held at the Tabernaculo Hispano on Buford Highway on Saturday, February 28, 2009. The purpose was to draw attention to the 5 million people in custody awaiting deportation or who have been deported, leaving minor children in broken homes.

The Family Unity rally is part of a 17 stop, 16 state tour of five weeks duration, designed to draw support from the faith based community for this issue.

Speakers at the Norcross event included Gutierrez, US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), and State Rep. Pedro Marin.

The rally started in Rhode Island on Friday night, and continued in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

After clergy leaders led the participants in prayer, immigrants began to offer testimonials.

Under proposition 287(g), the laws of Cobb County, Whitfield, and Hall counties now permit any policeman to serve as an immigration official, demanding proof of citizenship and deporting those who are illegal. Gwinnett County is now considering the same policy.

According to the testimony, one man was arrested when he was rear-ended picking up his children from school and was deported leaving his wife and two children. A mother was deported leaving her 12 year old daughter. A father was deported leaving a 15 year old son and 13 year old daughter, now in the custody of separate relatives.

“It is time for all of us to get in trouble and say, Stop the deportations,” Congressman Lewis said in his speech.

The rally was co-sponsored organizations including the Confraternidad Evangélica de Pastores y Ministerios de Atlanta (CEPMA), National Coalition for Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC), Atlantans Building Leadership for Empowerment (ABLE), Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO), Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), and the Coalición de Líderes Latinos (CLILA).

About the author:

Alice Gordon is a Staff Writer for The Atlanta Progressive News, and is reachable is alice@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

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Our syndication policy was updated June 2007. For more information on how to syndicate Atlanta Progressive News content, please visit: http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/extras/syndicate.html

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