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Congressman Luis Gutierrez

Representing the 4th District of Illinois

Rep. Gutiérrez: Trump and GOP Driving Immigrants Towards Citizenship, Voting

September 17, 2015
Press Release
Issues: 

Rep. Gutiérrez: Trump and GOP Driving Immigrants Towards Citizenship, Voting

“The way to respond to racism is to vote.”

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives about the importance of citizenship and voting as the nation marks Citizenship Day, the anniversary of the Constitution’s ratification.  There are approximately 8.8 million immigrants who qualify to apply for citizenship because they have held green cards for five years or been married to a U.S. citizens for three.  Rep. Gutiérrez spoke during the morning hour (at approximately 10:00 am ET) about the citizenship workshop he has organized in Chicago for Saturday, September 19 – just one of the scores of events helping immigrants navigate the citizenship process that are being staged across the country.

Rep. Gutiérrez started by recounting one of his favorite movies, the Oscar-nominated civil rights epic “Selma,” and tied it into the events of the day.

What can Americans do when the tail that is wagging the dog of the Republican Party is saying that most Mexicans are murderers and rapists? … Well, in the movie “Selma,” Oprah Winfrey didn’t just get mad; she fought back by making sure she could register to vote.

Rep. Gutiérrez said that there has been a surge of interest in citizenship and voter registration in his District:

People are calling and coming into my office asking what they can do to push back on Trumpism and very specifically, those who are not yet citizens are asking how to become citizens and those who have not registered to vote are asking how to register.  In Latino and Asian communities and in every community that thinks calling most Mexicans rapists is not the kind of political rhetoric that should go unchallenged, people are becoming citizens.

The Congressman concluded:

The way we respond to racism is by voting and in Latino and immigrant communities, we are getting that message loud and clear.

The text of the Congressman’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, is below.  A video of his speech is here: https://youtu.be/McC1j8UXpIk

Information on Saturday’s citizenship workshop in Chicago is here: http://1.usa.gov/1gmEBgn

Rep. Gutiérrez represents the Fourth District of Illinois, is a Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, is a Member of the Judiciary Committee and the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, and is the Co-Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. 

Rep. Gutiérrez

Floor Speech

I re-watched one of my favorite movies recently.  “Selma” tells the story of the fight to register voters in Selma, Alabama culminating in the march from Selma to Montgomery, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965. 

Spoiler Alert! After being turned around, threatened, beaten, tear-gassed and killed, black people got to vote in America.

A young and handsome John Lewis is depicted in the pivotal role of the community organizer who helps lead the movement.

Another Spoiler Alert!  John Lewis is a Member of this body and serves with distinction from the State of Georgia.

It is among the highest honors of my life to know John Lewis and work with him.  In fact, I have marched with and gotten arrested with John Lewis outside this Capitol Building in our fight for immigration reform.

I highly recommend the movie and I want every citizen -- and every person who lives here and hopes to be a citizen one day -- to watch and learn from the movie “Selma.” 

It is a moment in history when voting and citizenship were literally life and death struggles – and it was only fifty years ago.

As the Congress drags its feet on renewing and improving the Voting Rights Act, it is important to remember these struggles. 

And just yesterday, the NAACP completed an historic 1,000 mile march from Selma to Washington to remind us of the main lessons we learned 50 years ago.  How we must always stand up to bullies and official inaction using non-violence and community organizing and empowerment techniques.

The way to respond to racism is to vote.

I have been thinking a lot about that recently as the Republican presidential field of candidates has fallen in line with a bully who spews racism and is leading among his party’s primary voters.

What can Americans do when the tail that is wagging the dog of the Republican Party is saying that most Mexicans are murderers and rapists?

What can we do as a nation when candidates blame unrest in reaction to police violence in Baltimore and Ferguson on Mexican and Central American immigrants?

What can we do when thousands of people cheer when a candidate proposes building a great wall of America on our Southern Border and the response from other candidates is to say we should build another wall opposite Canada as well?

Well, in the movie “Selma,” Oprah Winfrey didn’t just get mad; she fought back by making sure she could register to vote.

We have all learned what the Republican Party seems to be forgetting, that appeals to a narrow Republican electorate with over-the-top racism and below the belt immigrant-bashing will not get you to the White House.

President Romney…err, uh… Governor Romney got more white votes than any candidate in history -- but he could not overcome the demographic reality that the country is more diverse and so are its voters.

Appeals to racism and immigrant bashing are creating a predictable backlash in the neighborhoods of my District in Chicago. 

People are calling and coming into my office asking what they can do to push back on Trumpism and very specifically, those who are not yet citizens are asking how to become citizens and those who have not registered to vote are asking how to register.

In Latino and Asian communities and in every community that thinks calling most Mexicans rapists is not the kind of political rhetoric that should go unchallenged, people are becoming citizens.

My office in Chicago is known as a place to go if you want information on the citizenship process.  In total  more than 50,000 American citizens came to our office for help to figure out the process. 

The demand for information on citizenship has grown so much in my District that this Saturday, from 9:00 – noon, at the Instituto del Progreso Latino, I will join my staff and local advocates and the local office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for a free workshop on applying for citizenship.

Not only will we help people understand the process, we will help them figure out if they qualify for fee waivers so that the $680 application fee that people have to pay is not a barrier.

Think about it.  There are roughly 8.8 million immigrants with green cards who have lived in the U.S. for five years or more or have been married to a U.S. citizen for three years or more and they could pass the background check and probably qualify for citizenship.

So, what I am proposing is that instead of renewing a green card for 10 years for $450, you can apply for permanent citizenship with a fee waiver and become a citizen for free.

That’s right, apply for citizenship and you can vote for whoever you want to vote for, and you could even vote against the guy who called your whole ethnic group rapists, murderers and drug-dealers.

That kind of ugly, un-American attack is moving people to apply for citizenship and moving citizens to become voters.

Mr. Speaker, today is Citizenship Day and there are hundreds of citizenship workshops and activities across the country. 

I am looking forward to meeting the hundreds of people who will be working towards their citizenship this Saturday in Chicago.

The way we respond to racism is by voting and in Latino and immigrant communities, we are getting that message loud and clear.

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