Rep. Gutiérrez criticizes Obama for failure to pass immigration reform law
El Hispanic News
Woodburn, OR — A ball of fire swept through the Woodburn High School gym the evening of Monday, June 26. That fire ignited the passions of more than 500 Latinos. The fireball was Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D.-Ill.) and his fuel was President Barack Obama’s failure to produce an immigration reform bill in his two and a half years in office.
Acknowledging that Obama does not have the legal right to create laws, Gutiérrez said the President of the United States does have under his powers the ability to persuade Congress to pass laws.
Gutiérrez also urged the president to sign an executive order to stop deportations and the separation of families.
“We have a broken immigration system and it has a destructive effect on our families,” Gutiérrez said earlier in a national tour of 20 cities.
Gutiérrez chastised Obama for not living up to his campaign promises. “Mr. President, you promised something,” Gutiérrez said. “You should make something happen!”
With his blazing rhetoric, Gutiérrez brought the crowd to its feet a dozen times or more.
Another hot button lay in the failure of Congress to pass the DREAM Act in 2010. The bill had passed the House in December with help from a handful of Republican votes. In the Senate, however, supporters could not muster the 60 votes needed to break a threatened Republican filibuster.
The DREAM Act would enable undocumented high school graduates with excellent records to attend college or serve in the U.S. military forces. If passed, this program would provide young adults an opportunity to earn legal status and a path to citizenship.
A wide band of sponsors supported Gutiérrez’s visit to Oregon, including CAUSA, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos de Noreste, Latinos Unidos Siempre, Mano a Mano Family Center, Salem Keizer Coalition for Equality, Mujeres Luchadoras Progresistas, and Voz Hispana Causa Chavista.
U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) joined Gutiérrez at a reception at El Amanacer housing project, but let Gutiérrez occupy center stage.
From April through June, Gutiérrez has visited 20 cities across the nation, including California, where he had visited seven cities in the Bay Area. One of his ongoing themes is that during the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama had promised to be the champion for immigration reform. Gutiérrez now asks, “When is he going to keep his promise?”
Where is justice?
In Woodburn, Gutiérrez emphasized the contributions immigrant workers have made for the United States.
More than seven of 10 of any crops you can name are picked by immigrants — mostly undocumented — Gutiérrez said.
The grapes that were picked for the Chardonnay you drink for dinner were harvested by the hands of immigrants, he added.
“We have to stop the deportation, the breaking up families,” Gutiérrez said. “They’re not criminals, they are people who are [helping this country].”
Gutiérrez found the idea of the U.S. Senate killing the DREAM Act wrong-headed. “Why punish children?” he asked rhetorically. “The children are not responsible for the acts of their parents.”
Gutiérrez said that there is no tracking set up to tell us how many children would be eligible for the DREAM Act. He called on the president to act immediately to find out many students would be eligible.
In a brief press conference before his speech, a reporter asked Gutiérrez if he thought that billions of dollars in corporate welfare to huge corporate farmers such as A.D.M. was related to causing more immigrants to come to the United States. Gutiérrez said that he had not considered any cause and effect between the two.
Optimists can take heart from actions scheduled for Salem and Washington, D.C.
A spokesman for Gov. John Kitzhaber said the governor had assigned a task force to find a common sense solution to the question of driver licenses for undocumented workers in Oregon. In 2008 the legislature voted to deny licenses to undocumented immigrants.
The spokesman says the governor plans to convene a session early enough to have a solution to put before Oregon’s 2012 legislature.
On the national scene, Katherine Vargas of the National Immigration Forum reported that a Senate committee “will host the first ever Senate hearing on the DREAM Act.”
Senators Dick Durbin (D-NJ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) received credit for reintroducing the bill.
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