Luis Gutiérrez and Coming Latino Revolt
The Senate is set to vote on a controversial immigration bill. If it fails, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez tells Bryan Curtis he’s prepared to ditch Obama and the Democrats—and take the movement to the streets.
It’s zero hour for the DREAM Act, a bit of immigration legislation that has taken on a hulking importance among Hispanic leaders. For two years, Barack Obama failed—or, if you prefer, refused—to nudge along a major immigration bill.
The last-ditch hope is that departing Democrats, and a few Republicans, somehow band together in the lame-duck session and pass a law allowing illegal immigrants who came to the United States as minors to gain citizenship. Harry Reid promised to bring up the bill for a Senate cloture vote this week. Republicans vowed to scuttle it, just as they did in September.
But as Chicago congressman Luis Gutiérrez prepares for a rally at a church in Brooklyn a few weeks before the vote, the DREAM Act seems like the end of his interest in congressional gamesmanship rather than the start. Gutiérrez is one of several Hispanic leaders who have found themselves politically estranged from the president.
Moreover, they are numbed by the legislative process that denied them a vote on immigration reform, much less a victory, when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. “If we couldn’t do it when Democrats were nearly 260 in the House and 59 in the Senate, how do we propose to tell people we can do it now?” Gutiérrez tells me. “The opportunity to have gotten it done is gone.”
The DREAM Act, Gutiérrez says, is for now his final legislative maneuver. He’s finished waiting for the mythical 60th vote to materialize in the Senate. No, when the lame duck ends, Gutiérrez and his movement allies will ask for a divorce—from the Democratic Party, from the entire lawmaking process. To hear Gutiérrez tell it, Hispanic leaders are about to stage a full-tilt campaign of direct action, like the African-American civil-rights movement of the 1960s.