By Nick Buffie (DA-Colombia & USA)
A little over a year ago, Luis Gutiérrez (D-Illinois) announced his retirement from the United States Congress. Known affectionately as “El Gallito” to many of his supporters, Gutiérrez has stepped aside after 34 years of public service, 26 of which were spent in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The now-retired congressman was born on December 10, 1953, in the working-class neighborhood of Chicago known as Lincoln Park. The son of an assembly-line worker and a taxi cab driver, Gutiérrez grew up around the same people whose interests he would later serve as a member of the U.S. Congress.
Since winning a U.S. House seat in 1992 and becoming the first Hispanic-American from the Midwest elected to Congress, Gutiérrez has been the House of Representatives’ most visible champion on the issue of immigration. Having been directly involved with immigration reform advocates on the ground, Gutiérrez has been arrested multiple times for peaceful protesting, clearly never afraid of voicing his opinion on an issue considered a priority by Hispanic-Americans.
Because of his fierce passion for passing comprehensive immigration reform, he voluntarily vacated his seat on the powerful Financial Services Committee to instead focus on addressing immigration full-time on the Judiciary Committee.
However, despite Gutiérrez’s dedication to the immigration fight, much of his success as a legislator has come from tackling other issues. Gutiérrez has had four bills signed into law by presidents of both parties. He addressed head-on the issues of: the Trump administration’s hurricane response to Puerto Rico, the future political status of Puerto Rico, consumer protections such as legislation he previously sponsored, and much more. As a true friend to Puerto Ricans and indeed all U.S. Latinos, it is not surprising that he was often endorsed by immigrant groups, veterans, organized labor, and LGBT organizations.
Although he is now retired from Congress, Gutiérrez has stated that he plans on moving to Puerto Rico in the coming months and assisting any way he can with the recovery of the still-heavily-damaged U.S. territory.
Given his decades of remarkable public service advocating for immigration reform, working to resolve the legal status of “Dreamers,” and ensuring that the millions of Puerto Rican voices are heard by policymakers, the Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus wishes Mr. Gutiérrez and his wife, Soraida, the best in all their future endeavors. As the Trump administration continues to ramp up its mistreatment and abuse of immigrant families, Congress will miss his passionate and humane voice.
With the close of the November 2018 elections, Gutiérrez’s seat in Congress has been filled by a fellow ally in the fight for immigration reform. Representative Jesús “Chuy” García, a progressive Hispanic-American Democrat, has pledged to continue the fight for working families in Illinois’ 4th Congressional District.
Additional reading: Former Congressman Luis Gutiérrez authored a 2013 memoir titled, Still Dreaming: My Journey from the Barrio to Capitol Hill.
Michael Ramos (DA-Australia) contributed to this article.