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Biography Luis Gutiérrez

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Luis Gutiérrez Luis Gutiérrez
Luis Gutiérrez
The U.S. Representative for Illinois's 4th congressional district, serving since 1993.


Luis Gutiérrez Biography



Luis Vicente Gutiérrez (born December 10, 1953) is an American politician and the U.S. Representative for Illinois's 4th congressional district, serving since 1993. Gutiérrez was the first Latino to be elected to Congress from the Midwest. From 1986 until his election to Congress he served as a member of the Chicago City Council representing the 26th ward. He is a member of the Democratic Party and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He is recognized as the "national leader on comprehensive immigration reform," and the top Latino elected official in the United States of America.

Of Puerto Rican descent, he is a supporter of Puerto Rican independence, and the Vieques movement. Gutiérrez is also an outspoken advocate of workers' rights, LGBTQ rights, gender equality, and other liberal and progressive causes. Gutiérrez is often compared to civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., due to both figures' use of non-violent civil disobedience in their advocacy for the equal rights of their communities. In 2010 Frank Sharry of America's Voice, a leading pro-immigrant group, said of Gutiérrez: "He’s as close as the Latino community has to a Martin Luther King figure." His supporters have given him the nickname El Gallito - the little fighting rooster - in reference to his fiery oratory and political prowess.


Early and personal life

Gutiérrez was born and raised in the Lincoln park neighborhood of Chicago, then an immigrant and working class community. His mother was an assembly-line worker and his father was a cab driver. After his freshman year at St. Michael's High School his parents moved the family to their hometown of San Sebastián, Puerto Rico. Gutiérrez, who had never before visited the island, reluctantly followed his parents; there he learned to speak Spanish. Gutiérrez said of his experience moving from Chicago to Puerto Rico: "In Lincoln Park, I had been called a spic, then all of a sudden I land on the island and everyone calls me gringo and Americanito. I learned to speak Spanish well."

In 1974 Gutiérrez returned to Chicago and enrolled at Northeastern Illinois University. He got involved in student activism and social justice issues, writing for the student publication Que Ondee Sola and serving as the president of the Union for Puerto Rican Students. In 1976, while a senior at Northeastern, he began driving a cab in order to raise enough funds to visit his longtime girlfriend, Soraida, in Puerto Rico. In 1977, after graduating from Northeastern Illinois University with a degree in English he returned to Puerto Rico and married Soraida. The couple returned to Chicago in 1978 and, unable to find work, Gutiérrez took up taxi driving full time. Gutiérrez eventually found work as a Chicago Public School teacher and later a child abuse caseworker with the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services.

Gutiérrez has been married to Soraida Arocho Gutiérrez for over thirty years. Together they have two daughters - Omaira and Jessica. Jessica's middle name - Washington - comes from the late Mayor Harold Washington, a close friend and mentor of Gutiérrez. Soraida battled and survived cancer in the 2000s.

Roberto Maldonado, 26th ward alderman and former Cook County Commissioner, is Gutiérrez' former brother-in-law.

Gutiérrez is an avid golf player.


Early political career

In 1983 Gutiérrez left his job with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to run against incumbent Dan Rostenkowski for 32nd ward Democratic committeeman in the March 1984 primary election. To fund his campaign Gutiérrez returned to driving a cab seven days a week, 14 hours a day. Gutiérrez's work as a taxi driver grew his campaign fund to $6,000, against which Rostenkowski had hundreds of thousands of dollars. Reporting on Gutiérrez's early political career, Jorge Casuso and Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Tribune wrote: Gutiérrez thought he could win. Washington's 1983 victory - the first local race Gutiérrez had voted in - had left him wildly optimistic. Before that, he didn't think blacks, Hispanics and poor people could win a legitimate voice in local government."

Relying on his family and friends as campaign staff, Gutiérrez opened up his campaign office on North California Ave in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood. Gutiérrez collected over three-fourths of the 2,200 signatures he needed to quality for the ballot on his own. Rostenkowski, then a twelve-term Congressman and Chair of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee soundly defeated Gutiérrez, with 76% of the vote.


Following Gutiérrez's loss to Dan Rostenkowski he helped found the Cook County Coalition for New Politics in spring of 1984. The coalition was meant to be a grassroots, independent, and multiracial counterweight to the Chicago Democratic machine.

Gutiérrez's political activism and role as a rising leader in Chicago's burgeoning Latino community caught the attention of Chicago's first African-American Mayor - Harold Washington - who appointed him in August 1984 to the position of deputy superintendent in the Department of Streets and Sanitation.

Gutiérrez served as a deputy superintendent in the Washington administration and as an administrative assistant to the Mayor - serving on the Mayor's committee on infrastructure.

In October 1984 a Molotov cocktail came crashing through the front living room window of Gutiérrez's home. For a period of three months following the firebombing his family lived in hotel rooms. The offenders were never identified, but Gutiérrez attributed the attack to "culprits from the right... opposed to reform and Mayor Washington."

In July 1985, in an effort to support Washington's political reform movement, Gutiérrez founded the West Town-26th Ward Independent Political Organization (IPO). Like the Cook County Coalition for New Politics, the organization aimed to bring together residents of all races in support of progressive reform in Chicago. The Mayor attended the organization's kick-off event, at which 100 names were added to the mailing list and $5,000 was raised.


Upon entering the Chicago City Council Gutiérrez, representing the 26th Ward, became Mayor Harold Washington's unofficial floor leader and leader of the Latinos in the council. Gutiérrez said of his role as unofficial Washington spokesman: "There are only six or seven of us of the twenty-five [pro-Washington alderman] that say anything. You could say there's only six or seven that have big mouths and want to talk all the time. But I figured it out-there's only six or seven of us that Eddie Vrdolyak doesn't have anything on, that Eddie Vrdolyak hasn't done a favor for, that Eddie Vrdolyak hasn't taken care of some problem, that Eddie Vrdolyak doesn't have some dirt on. So when you want to get up and take Eddie on, you got to be clean."

As a member of the city council Gutiérrez was a key backer of the 1986 gay rights ordinance - which sought to ban discrimination based upon gender & sexual orientation. He was also a proponent of local economic development and construction of affordable housing. He was referred to as a "workhorse in the city council" by political author Marable Manning.

In the 1987 municipal elections Gutiérrez faced five opponents and be re-elected to the City Council with 66% of the vote. Following Washington's death and the battle over who would succeed the deceased Mayor, Gutiérrez voted for African-American Alderman Timothy C. Evans over machine-backed Alderman Eugene Sawyer. In the 1989 Mayoral election Gutiérrez endorsed State's Attorney Richard M. Daley for Mayor, stating: "I will have a great influence in determining the thrust and tone of the Daley administration`s progressive and liberal agendas."

Under Daley's administration Gutiérrez served as Chair of the Committee on Housing, Land Acquisition, Disposition and Leases and Council President pro tempore, presiding over meetings in the Mayor's absence.


Congressional career

In 1990 a court order created a new "earmuff-shaped" majority Latino congressional district in Illinois' Chicagoland area. Four candidates announced their intention to run in the 1992 Democratic primary - Gutiérrez, Alderman Dick Mell of the 33rd ward, then Cook County Board of Appeals Commissioner Joe Berrios, and Juan Soliz, former Alderman of 25th ward. Mell, the only white candidate entered the race out of his "personal dislike for Gutiérrez."

Gutiérrez received the endorsement of Mayor Richard M. Daley, and all but one of his opponents - Juan Soliz - dropped out of the race. Despite the district's majority Mexican-American population, and Juan Soliz's highly negative campaign, Gutiérrez coasted to victory in the Democratic primary, all but ensuring his victory in the general election in the heavily Democratic district. At his election night victory party Gutiérrez stated: "If a Puerto Rican kid from Humboldt Park can go to the Congress of the United States, it shows the American dream is possible." Billy Ocasio was later tapped to replace Gutierrez in the Chicago City Council in January 1993.


Upon arriving to the United States House of Representatives Gutiérrez attempted to organize the 63 incoming Democratic freshmen to support a reform agenda. He sent each one a copy of the book Adventures in Porkland: How Washington Wastes Your Money and Why They Won't Stop. As a result of his attempts to organize the freshmen class Gutiérrez was passed up by the House leadership for his first choice of the Ways and Means Committee and his second choice of the Education Committee; instead he was assigned to the Banking Committee and Veterans' Affairs. In response to being bypassed for his top committee choices as result of his reform advocacy, Gutiérrez charged that then House Speaker Tom Foley was "not a reformer in any sense."

Gutiérrez was a member of the Judiciary Committee during the 110th and 111th Congress, serving on the Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law Subcommittee. During that same period of time he was the Chair of the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit of the Banking Committee.


Political advocacy

Gutiérrez has been called the "undisputed champion of immigration reform" and "Moses of the Latinos" due to his many years advocating for immigrant rights.

In his continued efforts to reform immigration Gutiérrez has participated in two acts of non-violent civil disobedience outside of the White House. The first took place on May 1, 2010, where, following a speech delivered to hundreds at Lafayette Park, Gutiérrez marched with protesters to the White House and refused to leave until Presidential action was taken on immigration reform or he was arrested. Many of the protesters who joined Gutiérrez had signs that called for a Presidential moratorium on deportation and criticized recent anti-immigrant legislation passed in Arizona - SB 1070. Gutiérrez also joined the protesters in criticizing Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's decision to sign the measure allowing racial profiling in the state-level enforcement of immigration laws.

On July 26, 2011 in response to a record breaking one-million deportations under President Obama, and the President's continued refusal to stave deportations of DREAM Act eligible youth, Gutiérrez and eleven labor, faith, and civil rights leaders were arrested outside of the White House. A crowd of 2,500 came to support Gutiérrez and the eleven other leaders. A day before the arrest President Obama sent a letter to Gutiérrez in which he stated that he would continue his administration's deportation policy.

In 2009 and again in 2011 Gutiérrez went on a nationwide tour in support of comprehensive immigration reform and a moratorium on the deportation of families. The tours have received widespread media attention and helped revive the nationwide discussion on immigration reform. Gutiérrez was the main speaker at the historic March 21, 2010 March for America rally at the capitol mall attended by over 200,000 people.


Mayoral candidacy

Gutiérrez' name has often been mentioned as a potential candidate for Mayor of Chicago. In 2006 he explored running for mayor of Chicago against incumbent Richard M. Daley, but announced in November that he would remain in Congress.

After Daley declared his retirement in 2011, Gutiérrez' name was once again floated as a potential mayoral candidate. In an effort to draft the Congressman into the race students formed chapters of "Students for Luis Gutiérrez" at six colleges and two Chicago public high schools; but in October Gutiérrez removed his name from consideration stating: "I have an obligation not to give up on the fight I've already begun. I have unfinished business to complete," in reference to his work on immigration reform in the United States Congress.



Source: wikipedia


November 1st, 2011


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