• October 28th, 2021
  • Thursday, 05:02:43 PM

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Latinos Are a Force in American Politics


What makes me so happy about the May 1st events we are seeing across the country is the solidarity with immigrants and refugees from people who are new to immigration issues. Today, you are seeing immigrants march for their own safety and the safety of their families and neighborhoods, but the events are much bigger and broader. Women, Muslims, environmentalists, labor unions, the LGBTQ and African-American communities see that the attacks on immigrants by President Trump are attacks on America and her values and are standing in unity against divisiveness.

We are saying that mass deportation, mass incarceration, spending billions on a wall, and demonizing immigrants as criminals or free-loaders – it is just not acceptable. The fear that Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions are ginning up to scare immigrants into leaving the country is being answered by having thousands and thousands of immigrants stand shoulder to shoulder with their allies to say we are here and we are staying and the American flag is our flag too.

Public support for sensible immigration reform and protection of immigrants in American society in polls has never been higher and you can see it also in the alliances we are forging.  The more Trump attacks and dehumanizes immigrants – which he does almost every day – the more the American people see the humanity of our immigrant brothers and sisters, their vulnerability, and the contributions they make. Trump has forged unity across progressive issues and constituencies that is a powerful force.

The treatment of immigrants and of Puerto Rico says to me that we have a lot of work to do in defending Latinos.

On the other hand, at this point, I don’t think I can vote for the budget deal that has been worked out precisely because it buys into the false premise that we need more than a billion dollars more for the border and deportation. I would not support a billion or more to attack Roe v. Wade or to hurt the environment, so I will probably not be able to vote for another additional $1.2 billion to deport more immigrants. I cannot look families in my district in the eye and say I support more deportations, because I do not.

I’m glad the wall is not being funded, but the wall will not deport anyone in my neighborhood; more money for ICE and detention will.

Puerto Rico is getting about one-third of what they need to address healthcare shortfalls, but it should have been more. It is not as if we can ask two-thirds of the Puerto Rican people to not get sick, or to wait for a new funding bill to get sick. When Congress has done so much harm to Puerto Rico through the PROMESA bill, the Fiscal Control Junta, and decades of neglect, it is hard to feel positive about almost $3 billion, but it is better than nothing.

The treatment of immigrants and of Puerto Rico says to me that we have a lot of work to do in defending Latinos. We are still seen as an afterthought or a scapegoat in Washington when we are thought of at all. So, looking out the window or across the TV channels and seeing demonstrations and events in more than 200 locations makes a point in a very persuasive way: Latinos are a force in American politics, we are not going to simply disappear and we are getting stronger every year.

Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez is in his 13th term representing the Fourth District of Illinois.  He is a Member of the Judiciary Committee and is the Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.