In a Fox News Latino exclusive, Juan Williams interviews Congressman Luis Gutiérrez (D) of Illinois.
JUAN WILLIAMS: Thank you for joining us for this Fox News Latino exclusive. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.
CONGRESSMAN LUIS GUTIÉRREZ (D-IL): Thanks for having me on.
WILLIAMS: Congressman, President Obama has deported more Latinos than any President in American history, and yet you support him for President. Why?
GUTIÉRREZ: Well, because there are issues such as Pell Grants and getting kids to college. The fact is that Latinos are probably the least represented when you look at who has healthcare in the United States. And I support his project that has expanded healthcare facilities for Latinos. Look, we have an issue with the President when it comes to… My daughter, Jessica, who is 24 years old—wonderful girl— said, “Dad, this is terrible, the deportations, what we are going to do? You know, the elections are coming up and you know the President.” And, and she said something like, “And, if we get invited to the White House, just so you know, you go, I am not going.” She is a reflection of a real angst and disillusionment that exists out there. But there is also a wise sage in the Gutiérrez family, and she is my wife Soraida. And my wife said, “But we are voting for Barack Obama.” And I think that is a tendency that you are going to see a lot of out there in the community.
WILLIAMS: But now, when you have gone to President Obama—both of you are from Illinois; you knew him back when he was in the State Legislature; and now you knew him as a Senator and now as President of the United States—he has failed to use his powers to ameliorate some of the damage being done by the failure to pass any immigration legislation. So why isn’t he doing more?
GUTIÉRREZ: You know it’s kind of like this. I think that the administration goes out there and says, “We have got more people in detention than ever before. We have deported more people than ever before. We have reduced illegal immigration to the United States—the lowest number in the last 20 years. We have done all these things to secure the border,” and they expect a pat on the back.
The fact is the Republican Party is never going to pat them on the back. The fact is that Mitt Romney’s proposal is self-deportation—a proposal that, by the way, is so extreme that—I mean it’s more extreme than, than McCain, and obviously more than George Bush who actually tried to pass comprehensive immigration reform. I mean, I haven’t served under a President that has the kind of extreme policy that… So while the President of the United States—and his administration—has deported more people. And that’s the thing that comes to a lot of Latinos’ minds, right? “God, I like him on healthcare. God, he is great on education.” But the thing that comes to their mind is, “my family members, my neighbors—people that I love and care about are being deported.”
So, back to your question... So I think there is that going on. There is this pressure from the Republican Party, “Do more, do more.” We tell him, “Mr. President, they are not ever going to say thank you. They are never going to recognize what you do. They are just going to ask for more.” What we need to do is begin to develop a pro‑immigration policy, which is the President we elected.
WILLIAMS: Well, but wait a minute, hold on. Congressman, when Barack Obama ran for President, he promised that within his first term, he would pass immigration reform legislation. He has not done anything close to that—he has not even made it a priority.
GUTIÉRREZ: And so, when… In the second year of his administration—in May of the second year of his administration—I was taken away in handcuffs in front of the White House because I was demanding that the leader of my party, first of all, my nation, somebody that I supported for President, but the leader of the United States of America wasn’t keeping the promise he made. I have done that twice, I have made that very clear. I am sure you, you have been around Washington long enough to know that I am probably not the first person on the list for a State dinner at the White House. But I am, I believe, a reflection of an anger that exists in the Latino community—and in the immigration community—because there is a broad base immigrant community in the United States of America. But when we see a President that stands up for healthcare, that stands up for Pell Grants, that stands up for community and so many, and I think when… You and I both know that, in Washington D.C., it’s not “this or nothing,” it’s “this or the alternative.” And the fact is—well, just yesterday the GOP Latina governor of New Mexico stood, just stood back and said, “Romney is too extreme.”
WILLIAMS: This is Susana Martínez.
GUTIÉRREZ: Susana Martínez. I think you have seen Senator Marco Rubio, who has said, “Republican Party has to take a step back and re-calibrate its position.” I think many people who evaluate the Republican Party…I mean, come on, Juan, during the debates it was like, “Let’s double the fence.” Oh, the next week, that wasn’t good enough, “Why don’t we put some electricity on the fence?” Now, why don’t we kill people? I mean, that is the extreme policies.
And let’s face it—Latinos also understand something—that when we tried to pass the DREAM Act, we passed it in the House, 216 to 198. There were 216 votes, 208 of them were Democrats. And in the Senate, there were 55 votes for cloture—51 Democrats, 4 Republicans. So people take all of that into consideration. But I am not going to sit here and be an apologist for the immigration policies of this administration. I think he can do so much more. I just wish he’d stop thinking about Republicans…
WILLIAMS: All right. Well, let’s think about…
GUTIÉRREZ: …and start thinking about the country and the immigrant community.
WILLIAMS: You are a Democrat.
WILLIAMS: Let’s think about Democrats and President Obama for a second. John McCain came for an exclusive interview with Fox News Latino last week, and he said, “Why don’t you talk about Barack Obama’s failure when he was in the Senate to support a guest worker program because he was so in lock with the unions that refused to approve a guest worker program?”
GUTIÉRREZ: You know, here is what… Here is the Barack Obama I remember—the same one as we have today when it comes to immigration—to be quite honest with you, Juan. Remember after the debacle in 2007 and we didn’t pass comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate the second time? What’s the next thing that happened? George Bush went back, it was… They were getting ready for the elections, so they passed the border fence. Remember that—a fence.
GUTIÉRREZ: It was just fence. There was nothing else in it. And guess—even though Senator Kennedy voted against that fence…even though Senator Dick Durbin from my state voted against—Barack Obama voted for a fence ‘cause he thinks about enforcement, first and foremost. And what we have been challenging him is to not think simply about enforcement in a vacuum, but to think about how it is… If U.S. President of the United States of America make a promise that you are going to take people out of the shadows, bring them into the light of day—afford them an opportunity, but you are deporting them massively—then you cannot keep the first promise.
WILLIAMS: Let’s go to the Republican ticket. You clearly think that Mitt Romney, the likely Republican nominee, is radical on this issue of immigration with self‑deportation. But you have been also meeting with a man who may be his Vice Presidential pick, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican. What have you been talking to Rubio about on the DREAM Act?
GUTIÉRREZ: Well, we asked Rubio to meet with us—that is, members of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus—asked Rubio to meet with us. He said, “Sure.” So he, he came down, we met.
WILLIAMS: He is not a member of the Caucus?
GUTIÉRREZ: None of the Hispanic Republicans are members of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus—they have their own caucus, a Republican Hispanic Caucus. Anyway, the point is he came down. He told us, he gave us some of the outlines of his proposal.
WILLIAMS: He opposes the DREAM Act as you have proposed it.
GUTIÉRREZ: Yes, he does. He gave us his proposal…
WILLIAMS: He says to me, when he was here for a Fox News Latino exclusive, “It’ll lead to chain migration. It will reward people with citizenship who have not earned it.” That’s what he says. How do you respond when he says that to you?
GUTIÉRREZ: Here is what I look at. I tried to look at the cup in Washington D.C. as being half-full, right? And I say to myself, “You know what? We really don’t have a legislative problem when it comes to DREAM kids, right?
GUTIÉRREZ: We have a deportation problem. Because the President of the United States of America can use the authority already vested in him and say, “You know what? I am going to do just like when those Cuban refugees land on the shores of Florida: I am going to parole them in place—an authority I have—and then give them a...” You can’t give them a Green Card. You can give them a work permit…
GUTIÉRREZ: …they can get a driver’s license…
WILLIAMS: But he hasn’t done it.
GUTIÉRREZ: I am not suggesting he has. So when Rubio comes to the table… Here is what I would say: I think he is sincere. He is saying, “You know, Luis, you approach the problem that you want to end the deportations. And I want to end the deportations.” And I think what Rubio is saying is: “Here is what I can do. This is what is possible for me to bring Republicans, who a year and a half ago wouldn’t vote for cloture on the DREAM Act so that we can get the vote, but we’ll vote for this.”
WILLIAMS: Well, all right.
GUTIÉRREZ: So all I am saying is…
WILLIAMS: Are you satisfied with the DREAM Act as he proposes it, which would not grant citizenship to young people who served in the military and who are in college?
GUTIÉRREZ: And here is my point—and I want to make it absolutely clear. I am going to work until the day that undocumented workers—including DREAM students—achieve. Because I really think that’s fundamental to whom we are as a nation—that citizenship—that is. I am committed to the United States of America. I don’t want two Americas, one that has that commitment and one that are kind of on the outskirts, so… But in the interim period, Juan, here is what I see. I see young people getting deported…kids that you and I… if we brought them here to this program, and you would interview them, all Americans, would say, “Well, why the hell are we getting rid of that young man or that young lady?” Yet, they are being deported. So instead of me looking at, “Oh, here is the President and here is Rubio.” I work with anybody and everybody —regardless of political affiliation, regardless of motivation—that gets us to stopping the deportations.
WILLIAMS: So you are going to support Rubio’s version of the DREAM Act?
GUTIÉRREZ: Let me just tell you something, Juan.
WILLIAMS: No, answer the question. Did you…? Are you going to support…?
GUTIÉRREZ: I’d like to put it in some context for you. The first person to sit down and speak positively about Rubio from my side of the aisle was me. I remember everybody saying, “Oh, so you are going to get a special office when he is Vice President? Are you going to get a view from the Oval Office now, Luis?” Because that’s the first knee-jerk reaction.
He hasn’t presented all of the details, Juan, to his proposal. He said that he is going to have them ready in a couple of weeks. I look forward. I think he is sincere, I think he is genuine. And if he brings forward a proposal, I am ready to work. I think the real fundamental question isn’t whether or not I am going to support it, because if he has got a proposal, I will work with Rubio, I am telling you that.
WILLIAMS: Even if it’s watered-down and does not grant citizenship?
GUTIÉRREZ: Even if it’s watered-down and does not grant citizenship --if it stops the deportations and doesn’t exclude them from becoming citizens. If it doesn’t stop that from happening, yes. And I think we can arrange, arrive at that. But here is the real problem. I’ll be optimistic. I think he can bring along 10, 15 people. And I think they’ll be 50 Democrats and it can get passed in the Senate. But how do you get it past in the House of Representatives? As I told you earlier, we passed it 216 to 198. Of the eight Republicans among the 216, six of them aren’t there anymore. So how do you get it past Lamar Smith and the Judiciary Committee and a Tea Party-infused Republican Caucus? Even Boehner—the Speaker of the House—said, “Hmmm, it doesn’t seem likely? Really difficult. Don’t know how we can do it.”
WILLIAMS: You have said that you find that Marco Rubio speaks out of two sides of his mouth—that when he is speaking to Tea Party folks, the way he speaks about immigrants, angers you.
GUTIÉRREZ: Yes. And at the same time, what I have done is I have…
WILLIAMS: Well, first of all, tell us what is he saying to the Tea Party folks…
GUTIÉRREZ: When he, when he speaks about… Even he was starting to speak about self-deportation. Even he said, “All of this is amnesty. That they should never be allowed to regularize their status and legalize…” I mean, he offered no opportunity. You know what I think…the sincerest answer I can give to your question…I think I have changed a little bit, I have listened. I think he has changed quite a bit; he is beginning to challenge his party. And maybe if I challenge my party—which I clearly have—and my own President… Listen, I want nothing but success for Barack Obama. It is not easy for me to challenge him, but I feel I need to, to make this a better nation and I feel that that’s my first and foremost responsibility. If he is ready to challenge his party, then I think I need to lower the rhetoric and the volume and the hostility, and begin to listen…because we have got to find some common ground. Here is one thing that everyone will agree on: You cannot pass immigration reform unless it’s bipartisan. You cannot pass immigration reform. One party can’t do it. Even if it’s a Republican proposal from Rubio, here is what I am going to tell you. Most of the votes will come from the Democratic Party. But that’s OK.
WILLIAMS: All right.
GUTIÉRREZ: There are proposals that are like that.
WILLIAMS: The Arizona law that you so strongly oppose…
WILLIAMS: …you have been all over the country in opposition…
WILLIAMS: …to this law. It is now in the Supreme Court. All the early signs are the Supreme Court is going to approve of this law. What do you say?
GUTIÉRREZ: Well, Juan, you, as a student of the Civil Rights Movement and I, as someone who has learned quite a bit from it, know that in the end it’s going to be the people of Arizona that are going to finally make this right. That is to say, I remember in 1994, I did a little poll in Illinois, and I asked Hispanics, “do you know who the governor of Illinois is?” About 40 percent of them did. When I asked them who the governor of California was—all of them knew who was the governor. Why? Because of Proposition 187.
GUTIÉRREZ: And what happened? You went from a Republican governor in California…a Republican, all of the major offices… people forget…
GUTIÉRREZ: …that California was a pretty Republican state —to a very Democratic state. And what happened was—tens of thousands of people said, “Oh yeah? Well, I am going to become a citizen.” “Oh yeah? Well, I am going to register to vote.” “Oh yeah? Well, I am going to get organized.”
WILLIAMS: And you think that’s going to happen in Arizona?
GUTIÉRREZ: And I think that’s going to happen in Arizona…
WILLIAMS: You think that President Obama has a chance to win Arizona? 30 percent of the population is Hispanic.
GUTIÉRREZ: You know something? This has the potential of turning it around in Arizona for the President of the United States because in this case—unlike the deportations which we have talked about—the voters are going to say, “Hmmm, Proposition, 1070, Obama is against this and his Justice Department, and they are continuing.” And let’s be clear: Mitt Romney said that the Arizona law should be the model for the nation! That’s how extreme he is. So when you take that kind of extreme rhetoric on the part of Mitt Romney and in defense of the President, I do think that there is an opportunity to galvanize a community. But moreover, I think [LAUGHS] it helps the President in Colorado…I think it helps the President in Arizona…and I think it helps the President in Florida. You cannot look at the Arizona law isolated in terms of the rejection of that law on behalf of the Latino community across this country.
WILLIAMS: Mitt Romney…
WILLIAMS: …are you disappointed in the rhetoric that he has been using as he speaks about the Latino community—and specific, illegal immigrants?
GUTIÉRREZ: You know, I don’t quite… four years ago when Mitt Romney ran for President of the United States and failed to get the nomination...he said he was for comprehensive immigration reform! He said he was for a pathway to legalization! It seems as though Mitt Romney has decided that, in order to capture the Republican nomination, he has to speak to the real shrill voices in the Republican Party, to the nativist voices. I don’t see how that’s bodes well for him in a general election. So self‑deportation. “No, just leave.” Really? Even as we know Senator John McCain of Arizona says, “I don’t agree with that.” McCain will tell you, “I don’t quite understand.” As a matter of fact, Senator McCain said, “I don’t believe he said that.” Well, he did say that. He says that the Arizona law on immigration should be the standard for the nation. Even when it comes to the DREAM Act—something that we should all agree on, young people who arrive at this country who do well scholastically or join the military, giving them a ability to legalize their status—he said that if it were to come to his desk as President, he’d veto it! That’s a pretty extreme proposition.
WILLIAMS: Well, but you were working with Marco Rubio, and you are saying you believe in Rubio, and here is the, the nominee saying he would veto it.
GUTIÉRREZ: Right. He would, he would veto… But, that’s my point. We need to find common voices…independent of political parties…if we are going to deal with the issue of immigration.
WILLIAMS: All right.
GUTIÉRREZ: So in the beginning, I said, “Ohhh, there is some conspiracy out there.” And my first knee-jerk reaction was the knee-jerk reaction in Washington D.C., right, and say, “They are up to no good, right? What are they up to, those Republicans? Let’s just reject that out of hand.” But you know something? I have a responsibility—a greater responsibility than to my political party, the Democratic Party—and that is to a community of people that are really, really hungry…they are really, really thirsty…for some justice and some fairness.
WILLIAMS: Let me just finish up with a quick question.
WILLIAMS: Right now, polls indicate high 60s, maybe even 70 percent of Latinos will vote for President Obama.
GUTIÉRREZ: I believe that.
WILLIAMS: You believe that?
GUTIÉRREZ: Because there is a sentiment that Romney is so extreme. Self-deportation.
WILLIAMS: Will they…? But, given the deportations—the record by President Obama, the Democrat. Could it be—much as you describe your daughter—that we’ll see a decrease in enthusiasm and lower levels of turnout in the Latino community and that will help Mitt Romney and potentially Marco Rubio?
GUTIÉRREZ: And this is why…
WILLIAMS: Do you believe that?
GUTIÉRREZ: Yes, I do believe…I do believe that.
WILLIAMS: And so, how sharp do you think the decrease will be in turnout in the Latino community?
GUTIÉRREZ: I don’t know. But I know one way to reverse it —and that is for the President of the United States to say, “You know, Marco Rubio, you are right. We passed it in the House, we did get 55 votes in the Senate, and you were representative of the majority feeling. I, as President of the United States, will embrace your proposal from an administrative point of view…”
WILLIAMS: The DREAM Act…
GUTIÉRREZ: I think… I think that…
WILLIAMS: The DREAM Act…
GUTIÉRREZ: The President of the United States should go on to Miami in a gathering of thousands of people with Marco Rubio and say, “Here it is, I am not deporting another one. Here is your work permit—because I have the authority to do this. Go get a driver’s license. And until the Congress of the United States does what’s right, I am not deporting a single one of you.”
WILLIAMS: And you say Rubio would stand by Obama for that?
GUTIÉRREZ: I am not saying that.
WILLIAMS: Oh, I thought you were saying that…
GUTIÉRREZ: No, no, I am not saying… I am saying that’s what I think the President should do.
GUTIÉRREZ: Use his power.
WILLIAMS: But you believe that the President should sign a DREAM Act that’s watered down, does not grant citizenship, as it’s being thought of by Marco Rubio?
GUTIÉRREZ: I think the President should sign… If legislation reaches the President’s desk, that stops the deportation and allows young immigrants…
WILLIAMS: Even though it doesn’t grant citizenship?
GUTIÉRREZ: Even though it doesn’t initially grant citizenship, but the…
WILLIAMS: But you would sign it? You would sign it?
GUTIÉRREZ: You know what? Here is our problem. I got citizenship. My kids got citizenship. I am saying, Juan, I don’t fear the federal government…I don’t fear of one day disappearing from my family’s life, or my children disappearing from my life. My kids got all the greatness of this nation. Who am I to stand by and say, “Oh, I, I got to get something perfect?” I got to stop them from being deported…
Every time they deport one of those DREAM kids, Juan, I am not getting them back. You are not getting them back. They are gone. There is never going to be legislation later on that says, “Oops, we made a mistake, let’s bring them all back.” Every time I allow one of them to be deported, we have lost them forever. I need to save them today.
GUTIÉRREZ: …under—maybe not the best of conditions—so that tomorrow, we can embrace them fully.
WILLIAMS: All right. Congressman Luis Gutiérrez, Illinois Democrat, thank you very much for coming in for this Fox News Latino exclusive.
GUTIÉRREZ: Thank you, Juan.
Juan Williams is a writer, author and Fox News political analyst and special contributor to Fox News Latino. His latest book "Muzzled: The Assault On Honest Debate" (Crown/Random House) was released in 2011. He also writes for The Hill and on TheHill.com.
This interview was produced by Victor Garcia. Follow him on twitter @MrVicGarcia.