In an op-ed that appeared on the Univisión website
December 14, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) endorsed the presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton. It came just in time before their joint appearance at the National Immigration Integration Conference to be held in Brooklyn NY on the same day. Gutierrez will introduce Clinton to the participants.
Gutierrez has been a firebrand on the issue of immigration reform, as well as a critic of Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent who is second in the polls for the Democratic nomination. Of Sanders, Gutierrez said this June “I don’t know if he likes immigrants, because he doesn’t seem to talk about immigrants.” Since then, Sanders’ campaign have hired several high-profile immigration activists who are focusing on Nevada and other states in the Southwest. Campaign staff have also touted a number of executive actions on immigration that Sanders says he will take should he occupy the White House.
Gutierrez, however, has not been uncritical of Clinton in the past. After Clinton met with Latino students in Nevada this May – so-called DREAMers - Gutierrez said that Clinton had once been “paralyzed” on the issue of immigration. He specifically mentioned Clinton’s opposition in 2008 to the granting of driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, a position that was unpopular with Latino activists. Clinton has since her position.
Clinton has sought to portray herself as a champion for Latino causes, while seeking endorsements from Obama administration members Julian Castro and Tom Perez, as well as Latino celebrities.
tried to position herself as a champion for Hispanics, blasting Trump (and trying to handcuff him to the other Republicans) while courting endorsements from high-profile Latino figures like Obama cabinet members Julian Castro and Tom Perez as well as celebrities like Christina Aguilera and Ricky Martin.
Circumstances appear to be ripe for Clinton. For example, a former activist with the United We Dream movement – a political organization that advocates for immigration reform legislation – is working as Clinton’s director for outreach to the Latino community. Lorella Praeli will be sworn in as a U.S. citizen at the National Archives in Washington D.C. in a ceremony orchestrated by the White House. Clinton is expected to mention the event.
In his op-ed at Univisión, which appeared in Spanish, Gutierrez wrote “In my 30 years as a public servant, I have heard many hypocritical politicians say things in order to win the Latino vote. But there are few who have been with us through good times and bad times, advocating policies important to Hispanic families.” He wrote that Clinton “understands what it means to create and defend legal immigration for our national identity and economy. She also knows how important it is to keep families together in our communities.”
Lauding Clinton’s work in 1972 to register Latino voters, Gutierrez also mentioned her work in the area of healthcare legislation and immigration reform. He said that no other candidate will “fight hard for Latino families,” than Clinton. “While Republicans fight with one another to see who can build the biggest wall or deport the most immigrants,” he wrote, “Hillary has shown real commitment towards immigrant communities.” For example, Gutierrez said, she has “defended immigrant communities from the hateful rhetoric of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.”
Importantly, Gutierrez said that Clinton has asked Congress to intervene in Puerto Rico’s multi-million dollar government deficit and provide it with bankruptcy protections – a solution that so far appears to be distant. Gutierrez claimed that her policy will cost American taxpayers nothing, but it will help Puerto Ricans so they will not have to leave their island home. Currently, the government of Puerto Rico has more than $70 billion of outstanding debt, with a debt-to-GDP ratio of about 68%. Unemployment and poverty are endemic as Puerto Ricans increasingly seek to find work on the mainland.
Moreover, said the congressman, Clinton understands “how important” it is to Puerto Ricans to have access to Medicare and Medicaid. Both of these are largely unavailable to Puerto Ricans who, despite being American citizens, are not accorded those federal benefits. It is for these reasons and others, Gutierrez said, that he endorses Clinton for president.
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.