Democratic House member Luis Gutierrez of Illinois reiterated his support for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants while acknowledging that in order to receive Republican support, that path may not be "clean, clear and quick." He also stated that illegal immigrants who want to become citizens ought to embrace American culture and encouraged them to learn English.
"My name will not be on any bill that prevents citizenship from those who are legalizing under a comprehensive immigration plan," said Gutierrez at a Tuesday morning breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. "Perhaps, not an easy path or a uniform path for every undocumented immigrant who is legalizing to arrive at a green card at the end with the exact same process taking the exact same number of years for every person legalizing. But I will not prohibit immigrants who are legalizing from ever being citizens if they chose."
Gutierrez was also critical of the Obama administration's approach to immigration, saying that in 2009, he and others embarked on a tour of American cities to promote immigration reform when they believed Obama "was not working as quickly as we believed he should and was not demonstrating the commitment that we believed he should in making immigration a priority."
"I think the president of the United States...and the positions they take and the priorities they make are also those of the folks that surround them," he said, adding that members of the Obama White House never saw the issue as a top priority over job creation.
Gutierrez, a 20-year House veteran who has focused much of his career on immigration issues, spoke highly of Republicans like Paul Ryan, Raul Labrador, and Mario Diaz-Balart, whom he said are in agreement that the population of around 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States should not become a "permanent underclass."
"I would like a clean, clear, quick path to citizenship, and I think a lot of people on my side would," Gutierrez admitted. "But we’re working to find bipartisan agreement, and I don’t get to write the bill all by myself."
Gutierrez's reaffirmation of this principle comes at a time when Republicans like Marco Rubio have announced their support for a pathway to citizenship. On Tuesday, GOP senator Rand Paul also said he supported a path to citizenship with some conditions. “Prudence, compassion and thrift all point us toward the same goal: bringing these workers out of the shadows and into becoming and being taxpaying members of society," Paul told the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, according to the Washington Post.
Asked by THE WEEKLY STANDARD why Gutierrez's line in the sand is a "path to citizenship" rather than a path to legal status, the Illinois Democrat repeated that he and others (including Republican Paul Ryan) do not want to create a "permanent underclass" of residents who can never become citizens before offering what he called a "more expansive" reason.
"I think the American people want them to become citizens of the United States because they equate citizenship with responsibility and the completeness of responsibility," Gutierrez said. "If you want to be a part of the United States of America, lift the American flag, right, with the 50 stars on it, and tell people, ‘Learn English.’ That’s the common language."