WASHINGTON--Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) switched to the House Judiciary Committee in order to push immigration reform, with Democratic House leadership in Friday finalizing appointments for the new Congressional session that started on Thursday. The House Judiciary Committee handles most of the key immigration legislation.
Last month, I wrote how Gutierrez has quietly been alliances with Republicans to work on immigration reform, meeting with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) both potential 2016 GOP presidential contenders.
In making the move, Gutierrez gave up considerable seniority on the House Financial Services panel, where he would have been the third ranking Democratic. Under House Democratic rules, Gutierrez can take a "leave" from the committee, preserving his ability to return at another time.
"Giving up 20-plus years of seniority on Financial Services, even temporarily, is not easy, but passing comprehensive immigration reform is my passion and my commitment to my constituents and immigrants all across our country," Gutierrez said.
"All of the road signs are pointed in the right direction, and I felt I must be on the Judiciary Committee during this Congress to help the others on the Committee get immigration reform to the finish line. We are poised for serious action to fix our broken immigration system, a top priority for Democrats, for the Democratic Leadership, and for the President, and I have spoken to numerous Republicans in the House and Senate who want to get it done.
"We have record levels of deportations and millions of families separated by borders and out-of-date laws. We can't wait and wait and wait for immigration reform, and I am finding an enthusiasm for action that I have not seen on Capitol Hill for years.
"One of the main obstacles to a serious conversation on immigration reform was the small group of people holding the issue hostage to the notion that 12 million people had to leave the country and no new legal immigrants could be added. That argument is dead and the funeral was on Election Night when Gov. Romney and his hard line approach fell in stunning defeat and the overwhelming majority of Latino voters rejected the Republican approach.
"Now we need all hands on deck to make sure that legislation moves and that it makes our immigration system work for the American people first and foremost and for both new immigrants and those who are already here. We need an immigration system that is as smart and generous as the American people and that serves the needs of our 21st Century economy. What we have now is two- or three-decades out of date and separates families, keeps people locked in the underground, and does not live up to the expectations the American people have for an immigration system that has always been such a crucial aspect of our nation's identity.
"I appreciate the seriousness with which the Democratic Leadership and my Democratic colleagues are taking with this issue and for allowing me to adjust my committee assignments so that I could continue to lead on the immigration issue. I look forward to working with the Chairman and the Subcommittee Chairmen and the Ranking Member, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), and the Immigration Subcommittee Ranking Leader, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), in crafting bipartisan immigration reform that fixes our broken immigration system."