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Rep. Gutierrez: Latinos Have Lost Patience With Obama on Immigration

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who campaigned for Barack Obama during his election, is becoming increasingly displeased with the president’s stance on immigration. Gutierrez said Latinos could stay home in November if Congress and the administration fail to act on immigration reform, The Hill reported this morning. Gutierrez has been one of the most outspoken advocates for reform, and he says the Latino community has lost patience with an administration that focuses on enforcement-only policies.

Some Democrats have felt little urgency in pursuing the controversial issue, partly because they see no risk that Hispanic voters will bolt the party for the GOP. But Gutierrez says they are missing the real political consequence of inaction.

“We can stay home,” Gutierrez said in an interview with The Hill. “We can say, ‘You know what? There is a third option: We can refuse to participate.’ ”…

When Gutierrez talks about his old Chicago neighbor, he speaks of “anger, disillusionment, dissatisfaction” and “betrayal.” He says Obama has failed to keep his campaign commitment to immigration reform, and he decries what he calls an “enforcement-only” policy in which the administration has deported more undocumented immigrants than in the final year of the George W. Bush administration.

Gutierrez says Latinos have lost patience with Obama, and he predicts an “escalation” of activism aimed at forcing immigration reform to the fore of the party agenda.

“We’re going to make it uncomfortable for the Democratic Party,” Gutierrez said, adding that immigration advocates would step up the pressure by drawing lessons from the movements for civil rights and women’s suffrage. “There’ll probably be civil disobedience. There will probably be a number of different actions. What we have to do is we have to break through this wall of silence, because we’re invisible.”

Gutierrez, who doesn’t mention Arizona’s immigration bill in the article, is holding a press conference with other lawmakers today to denounce that bill. He also comments on Obama’s nomination of a Latina to the Supreme Court, saying “So big deal…About time!”

Update: Gutierrez clarified a statement he made during this interview with The Hill in a press release after his conference today:

The political imperative could not be more clear. A headline today (in The Hill) said I would encourage Latino voters not to vote for Democrats if the President and Congress fail to enact immigration reform and I want to say I don’t think that is what I said. What I did say is that Latino and immigrant voters are likely to stay home if their options are a Republican Party actively pushing them away and Democratic Party doing little or nothing to draw them in. They don’t need me to tell them to stay home and I haven’t, but the very real problem exists for the President and my Party that Latino and immigrant voters remember the promises they heard and are tuned-in enough to see they haven’t been kept.

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