Now in his eleventh term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez has established himself as an effective legislator and energetic spokesman on behalf of his constituents in Illinois’ Fourth District in the heart of Chicago. Gutiérrez’ tireless leadership championing the causes of the Latino and immigrant communities has led to greater responsibilities within the U.S. Congress and has earned him widespread acclaim throughout the country.
As the first Latino to be elected to Congress from the Midwest, Gutiérrez sought opportunities to address long-standing needs facing Latinos and immigrants in his diverse Congressional district, which is home to large and established communities of immigrants from Eastern Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere. During his first term in office in 1992, he led the fight to expand citizenship education and English language proficiency programs for newly-arrived immigrants. In Chicago, he has held citizenship workshops offering comprehensive assistance to prospective citizens that have helped more than 50,000 people take the first steps toward citizenship.
On the national level, there is no elected official more committed to or more passionate about protecting and advocating for our nation’s immigrant community than Rep. Gutiérrez. Because of the Congressman’s outstanding work on immigration issues, he was appointed Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force and has previously served as Chair of the Democratic Caucus Immigration Task Force. He is the Democratic Party’s leading strategist and spokesperson on immigration issues. He has been at the forefront of the effort to pass historic, bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform legislation and helped guide the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act to passage in the House of Representatives in 2010.
The number one legislative priority for the 113th Congress and the Obama Administration is the passage of comprehensive immigration reform. Rep. Gutiérrez gave up his number three position as a Ranking Member on the prestigious Financial Services Committee in order to serve on the House Judiciary Committee, which is the committee of jurisdiction for immigration. Rep. Gutiérrez was seated on the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, where he will play a key role pushing for a comprehensive and inclusive package that preserves family unity and provides a pathway toward citizenship, while fighting back against efforts to overly restrict legal immigration. The Congressman previously served on the Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law Subcommittee during the 110th and 111th Congresses. He also worked closely with the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Republicans in the House and Senate to craft a bipartisan immigration reform package, legislation that continues to be the centerpiece of the national immigration debate since 2005.
Rep. Gutiérrez has led calls for the preservation of family unity and a halt to the record level of deportations. He launched the Campaign for American Children and Families national tour in 2011 to lift up the stories of DREAMers individuals and families being torn apart by deportation. Rep. Gutiérrez called on the President to use his executive powers to protect DREAM Act-eligible immigrant youth from the threat of deportation. When President Obama established the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides protection from deportation and a temporary two-year work permit, Congressman Gutiérrez worked with community leaders in Chicago to set up workshops to enroll immigrant youth in the program. On August 15, 2012, over 13,000 people lined up at Chicago’s Navy Pier to receive assistance applying for Deferred Action. Rep. Gutiérrez was the first official to hire a DACA recipient to work in his local Chicago office. In 2009, he led a multi-city tour to raise the visibility of the toll of mass deportations on immigrant families and communities. The Familias Unidas/Families United tour helped reenergize the fight for immigration reform during the first half of President Obama’s first term.
At the same time, the Congressman fought anti-immigrant measures that were being proposed and passed by state legislatures across the country. Rep. Gutiérrez joined his colleagues in opposing Arizona’s SB1070 and Alabama’s HB56 anti-immigrant measures. He lead a delegation of House members to Montgomery, AL to hear testimony from local officials and community and business leaders about the damaging effects of Alabama’s anti-immigrant law.
Rep. Gutiérrez has been a senior Member of the Financial Services Committee, having served on the Committee for over 20 years, and served as Ranking Democratic Member on the Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing, and Community Opportunity during the 112th Congress. The subcommittee had oversight over a broad swath of policies related to the insurance industry, home ownership, and strategic investments in the health of neighborhoods and communities across the country. The Congressman fought to ensure families had access to housing counseling and loan modifications and worked to oppose efforts to weaken the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. During his tenure as Chair of the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit in the 110 and 111th Congress, Rep. Gutiérrez played a critical role fighting for consumer protections and defending oversight provisions in the successful effort to pass the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Bill. His input was instrumental in the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Among his other important contributions to the final bill were new transparency and fee regulations governing the sending of remittances internationally. Rep. Gutiérrez has also spearheaded efforts to bring more minorities into the banking system and has played a prominent role in cracking down on predatory lenders, including flagrant abuses in payday lending to the military. An amendment offered by Congressman Gutiérrez in the Financial Services Committee to cap the interest on payday loans made to military families and provide them with other basic protections against abusive lenders, was signed into law in 2006.
In 2011, Rep. Gutiérrez was appointed to the prestigious House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. The Congressman served on the Subcommittee on Terrorism, HUMINT, Analysis, and Counterintelligence and returns to the Committee again for the 113th Congress.
As a former member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Rep. Gutiérrez took the lead in calling for greater funding for Veterans health research and his hard work was instrumental in securing $92 million additional dollars for medical research, including tens of millions of dollars for prosthetics programs. While serving on the V.A. Committee, Gutiérrez became the champion of victims of sexual trauma by winning passage of legislative language to provide counsel and treat veterans for sexual trauma. He continues to be a strong advocate for ensuring that Illinois veterans receive ample health benefits for their service. Gutiérrez also led the fight to help Veterans affected by Agent Orange and his efforts resulted in the broadening of the eligibility and benefits now extended to those exposed to high levels of radiation during their tour of duty. Recently, he has defended military families and dependents facing separation or deportation because of America’s inadequate and inflexible immigration laws.
Mass transit issues have also played a prominent role in Gutiérrez’ agenda. He secured more than $320 in federal dollars to reconstruct the aging Douglas Branch of the Chicago Transit Authority’s Blue Line, the “L” route which runs through the southwest side and suburbs in his district. He also introduced legislation offering tax credits to commuters who use public transit on a full-time basis. Gutiérrez joined community and business leaders to implement creative ridership incentive programs and to press for the restoration of full service on the CTA.
Gutiérrez was born in Chicago on December 10, 1953 and later moved to Puerto Rico, his parent’s birthplace, before returning to Chicago to attend college. He graduated from Northeastern Illinois University in 1977 with a degree in English and worked as a teacher, social worker, cab driver, community activist, and city official until his election in 1986 as Alderman from the city’s 26th ward. In the Chicago City Council, he led the fight for affordable housing, tougher ethics rules, and a law to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and was a key lieutenant in Mayor Harold Washington’s progressive multi-ethnic coalition. Rep. Gutiérrez and his wife Soraida have two daughters, Omaira and Jessica, and a grandson, Luisito.