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Rep. Luis Gutierrez: Returns to City Council roots to rally support against GOP House Immigration bill

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Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), a former Chicago alderman--who is mulling a mayoral run--returned to City Hall this morning to rally support against a House bill passed last December on the strength of GOP votes. The legislation would criminalize many aspects of illegal immigration. The Senate is preparing to write its own immigration measure and eventually the House and Senate must agree on the same language in order for a bill to become a law.

Gutierrez is one of the Democratic House leads on immigration.

Prepared Statement of the Honorable Luis V. Gutierrez Member of the U.S. Congress

A Joint Meeting of the Chicago City Council Committee on
Finance and the Committee on Human Relations

Monday, February 27, 2006

To the Chairman of the Committee on Finance, Alderman Edward Burke, and the
Chairman of the Committee on Human Relations, Alderman Billy Ocasio, thank
you for inviting me to speak at this timely hearing on the pressing issue of
immigration reform.

I'd like to thank Mayor Richard Daley, as well, for his support of
comprehensive immigration reform, and for consistently upholding Chicago's
proud tradition as a city of immigrants.

And thanks to everyone for joining us today for this important hearing.

It is a distinct pleasure for me to express my unconditional support of the
resolutions under consideration by your Committees today. And I would like
to thank the sponsors for their work on the issue of immigration reform.

The resolutions drafted by Alderman Cardenas, O'Connor and others, rightly
condemn U.S. Representative James Sensenbrenner's "Border Protection,
Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005" (H.R. 4437) that
passed the U.S. House of Representatives in December. It is urgent that the
City Council inform our U.S. Senators, who are working on an immigration
reform proposal as we speak, that great cities like Chicago cannot and will
not tolerate such anti-immigrant and counter-productive measures.

Condemnation of intolerance and xenophobia is important, as is crafting a
tough, but fair, solution to the problems with our current immigration
policy.

This is why I whole-heartedly agree with Aldermen Burke's and SolĂ­s'
resolution in support of comprehensive immigration reform. The Secure
America and Orderly Immigration Act (H.R. 2330), that I introduced with my
colleagues Representatives Jim Kolbe and Jeff Flake and Senators John McCain
and Ted Kennedy, is the only bipartisan, bicameral comprehensive solution to
the challenges we face.

Let me begin with the Sensenbrenner bill.

I think the New York Times had it right when it described it as "a bill so
draconian it sounds like something out of the Know-Nothing anti-Irish
movement of 150 years ago."

Or the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page which described the
bill as "heavy with border control and business harassment and light on
anything that will work in the real world."

So why is the Sensenbrenner bill a draconian proposal that won't work?

For starters, the bill would turn 11 million hard working immigrants into
aggravated felons.

Think about that for a minute.

It would potentially make an international student who drops a class and
doesn't have enough credits a criminal.

It would also criminalize the relatives, neighbors and co-workers of
immigrants.

Priests, social workers and nurses who assist immigrants would be breaking
the law.

As the Conference of Catholic Bishops stated, "This legislation would place
parish and social service staff at risk of criminal prosecution for
performing their jobs."

It would severely limit immigrants' access to the courts and would grant
unprecedented power to low-level bureaucrats to deny citizenship -- without
explanation and in secret -- to legal immigrants.

It would require the Chicago Police Department to enforce federal
immigration law, turning policemen and women into border patrol agents.

Law enforcement officers patrolling our city's streets would have to waste
valuable time and resources going after bus boys and babysitters, rather
than pursuing criminals and protecting public safety.

How, exactly, does the federal government and those who support the
Sensenbrenner bill think it will round up 11 million people?

How much would this cost?

According to a recent study by the Center for American Progress, it would
cost more than $41 billion annually for five years -- and would exceed the
entire budget of the Department of Homeland Security for Fiscal Year 2006.

Based on one study, it would take 200,000 buses -- bumper to bumper -- in a
convoy 1,700 miles long to transport these undocumented workers to the
border.

And if you need further evidence, Department of Homeland Security Secretary
Michael Chertoff recently told the Senate Judiciary Committee that it would
cost "billions and billions and billions," adding that it would not be a
realistic policy.

More importantly, what would a mass deportation do to our workforce and to
our economy?

The Labor Department estimates that the total number of jobs requiring only
short-term training will increase from 53.2 million in 2000 to 60.9 million
by 2010, a net increase of 7.7 million jobs.

The simple truth is that most of our aging, more educated workforce is
unwilling to perform this type of labor, however, these jobs need to get
done to keep our economy growing and our communities thriving.

The Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives fast tracked
this vicious and destructive bill, without a thorough vetting and for purely
political reasons. And now, the Senate is working on its legislative
response.

What I've heard so far about Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter's bill
to be marked up this week does not bode well for our immigrant community,
the City of Chicago or our nation.

However, there is still time for our Senators to craft a more thoughtful and
comprehensive package.

And I have confidence that these resolutions will help compel them to do so.
The Senate must understand that cities and communities across America need
fair alternatives to the harsh, enforcement-only policies that tear families
apart and pit neighbor against neighbor.

Which brings me to the need for a real, workable solution to our immigration
challenges that honors our tradition as a nation of immigrants.

We need a legislative fix that will better secure our nation, keep our
families together, safely regulate the flow of immigrants coming to the U.S.
to work, and protect the tremendous contributions that hard working
undocumented immigrants make to our economy.

Consider Chicago's economy, for example. According to the U.S. Census, from
1960 to 1990, our city experienced an unsettling and disconcerting decline
in population.

In 2000, however, Chicago's population increased for the first time in more
than 30 years. Why? I can tell you it wasn't because of people buying
half-million dollar condos downtown or purchasing fancy townhouses in our
outlying neighborhoods.

The answer is simple. Our population grew because Chicago's Latino and
immigrant population has nearly doubled in sixteen short years. And, as
everyone in this Chamber knows, population growth is more than a number. A
growing population means an increasing tax base. It means more resources.
It means that the most important type of capital -- human capital -- is
flowing back into our city to fill vacant, but vital, low-wage, low-skill
service jobs.

These new immigrants, like the generations who came to our city before them,
are making Chicago grow again. They may have names like Garcia and Gomez
and Hernandez instead of Cermak and Kinzie and Ogden or even a nice Irish
name like Daley, but their contributions to our city are just as important,
and just as essential, as those who arrived a few generations ago.

According to Crain's Chicago Business, "Immigrants are moving into and
bringing new life to many blue-collar areas of Chicago that had previously
been losing population. These new residents contributed to the city's net
gain in population during the 1990s."

Just look at 26th Street in my congressional district. This once desolate
and deserted stretch of Chicago has been rebuilt by the sweat and toil of
Chicago's Mexican-American community. Today, it is our city's second-longest
uninterrupted commercial strip and contributes the second highest sales tax
revenue after the Magnificent Mile on Michigan Ave.

So I think that it is important that we, as a city, advocate the creation of
an immigration system that takes these positive factors and historical
perspectives into account.

I know there is a lot of talk about enforcement and border security. And it
is extremely important-- we address it extensively in the Secure America
Act. But, enforcement is meaningless if we don't have laws that are in sync
with reality and enforceable in the first place.

A recent study by Princeton Professor Douglas Massey on the U.S. Border
Patrol Budget shows that its budget has increased tenfold since 1986. And,
as you know, this rapidly rising budget has done very little to stem the
rapid rise in undocumented immigration.

So I think we need to do more than simply throw more money at the problem.
We need to abandon the same old, tired, narrow and failed policies of the
past. And we need to think more comprehensively and more strategically about
the issue -- because building a giant fence or sending more unfunded
mandates to our local communities will not solve this problem.

I believe the solution lies in the fact that we must stop targeting
Windex-wielding cleaning ladies and start focusing our limited resources on
better targeting the real terrorists and criminals and smugglers who wish to
do our nation harm.

And I think that goal is achievable if we combine smart enforcement with a
sensible and pragmatic path for new workers to come to this country to fill
shortfalls in our workforce.

But let me be clear: None of this will be successful unless we deal directly
with the more than 11 million undocumented workers who are already here --
living and working and contributing to a better, more dynamic America.

Which is why I, with my colleagues, introduced the Secure America and
Orderly Immigration Act. Our bill creates a system that is tough and
enforceable. But it also is fair and just and reflects the enormous
contributions immigrants make every day. Because immigrants pick our fruit.
They care for our children and elderly. They change bedpans. They clear
our tables and wash our dishes.

They do these jobs not because they want to take anything away from America
- but because they want to give their skills, their sweat and their labor
for a better life and for the opportunity to help build a better America.

And that is why I believe it is so urgent for cities across the nation to
urge Congress to tackle the issue of true comprehensive immigration reform.

And we are making good progress.

To date, there have been more than 200 editorials in more than 74 newspapers
in at least 32 states endorsing our comprehensive bill.

But there is more work to be done.

Because each day that goes by with silence, inaction or another expensive,
failed enforcement initiative means the potential for another dead body
turning up in the desert, another child separated from her parent, another
worker exploited and another dream denied.

Thank you again, Chairmen Burke and Ocasio, for this generous opportunity to
speak to you all today. I would be happy to answer any questions.


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3 Comments

What part about "illegal" does he not understand? Maybe he can contribute to local school funding for funding "english as a 2nd language" or help fund the overruns due to the overpopulation of suburban schools in part, due to illegal immigration.

This is my Comment

There is a simple and low cost solution to this problem. They broke the law comming here so we put them all on probation by issuing a provisional Social Security number , such as P99 99 9999. They the can get a legitamate job and enter the tax base to pay for the social sevices they require. Like all probation there would be conditions learn english,not break anyother laws. etc. contact me for further details.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 27, 2006 5:00 PM.

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