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Luis Gutiérrez

Luis Gutiérrez
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 4th district
Assumed office
January 3, 1993
Preceded by George Sangmeister
Member of the Chicago City Council
from Ward 26
In office
May 2, 1986 – December 12, 1992
Preceded by Michael Nardulli
Succeeded by Billy Ocasio
Personal details
Born Luis Vicente Gutiérrez
(1953-12-10) December 10, 1953
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Soraida Arocho
Children 2 daughters
Alma mater Northeastern Illinois University
Religion Roman Catholicism
Website House website

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. 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."[1] In the 113th Congress, with his 20 years of service, Gutiérrez became the longest serving member of the Illinois House delegation, and so is occasionally referred to as the unofficial "dean" of the delegation.[2][3]

Of Puerto Rican descent, he is a supporter of Puerto Rican independence, and the Vieques movement.[4] Gutiérrez is also an outspoken advocate of workers' rights, LGBT rights, gender equality, and other liberal and progressive causes.[5][6] Gutiérrez has been 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.[7] In 2010 Frank Sharry of America's Voice, an immigration reform advocacy group, said of Gutiérrez: "He’s as close as the Latino community has to a Martin Luther King figure."[8] His supporters have given him the nickname El Gallito – the little fighting rooster – in reference to his fiery oratory and political prowess.[9]


  • Early life, education, and early career 1
  • Early political career 2
    • Campaign for 32nd ward Democratic committeeman 2.1
    • Adviser to Harold Washington 2.2
    • 1986 Aldermanic election 2.3
    • Chicago City Council 2.4
  • U.S. House of Representatives 3
    • Elections 3.1
    • Tenure 3.2
      • Party leadership and Caucus membership 3.2.1
      • Constituent services 3.2.2
      • Consumer rights 3.2.3
      • Immigration reform and immigrant rights 3.2.4
      • Veterans' access to health care 3.2.5
      • Puerto Rico 3.2.6
      • Workers' rights 3.2.7
      • Public transportation 3.2.8
      • Use of civil disobedience 3.2.9
      • Criticism 3.2.10
    • Committee assignments 3.3
  • Mayoral candidacy speculation 4
  • Personal life 5
  • Electoral history 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life, education, and early career

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."[9]

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.[10] 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 other work, Gutiérrez took up taxi driving full-time.[11] Gutiérrez eventually found work as a Chicago Public School teacher and later a child abuse caseworker with the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services.[12]

Early political career

Campaign for 32nd ward Democratic committeeman

In 1983, Gutiérrez left his job with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to run against incumbent 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."[9]

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.[9]

Adviser to Harold Washington

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 Cook County Democratic Party.[13]

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.[9]

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.[14]

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."[9]

In July 1985, in an effort to support Washington's political reform movement, Gutiérrez founded the

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
George Sangmeister
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 4th congressional district

United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Gene Green
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Alcee Hastings
  • BuzzFlash Interviews: Congressman Luis Gutierrez June 20, 2001

External links

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Illinois's 4th congressional district: Results 1992–2006[59]
Year Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct Third party Votes Pct
1992 Luis Gutiérrez 90,452 77.6% Hildegarde Rodriguez-Schieman 26,154 22.4%
1994 Luis Gutiérrez (inc.) 46,695 75.2% Steven Valtierra 15,384 24.8%
1996 Luis Gutiérrez (inc.) 85,278 93.6% William Passmore (Libertarian) 5,857 6.4%
1998 Luis Gutiérrez (inc.) 54,244 81.7% John Birch 10,529 15.9% William Passmore (Libertarian) 1,583 2.4%
2000 Luis Gutiérrez (inc.) 89,487 88.6% Stephanie Sailor (Libertarian) 11,476 11.4%
2002 Luis Gutiérrez (inc.) 67,339 79.7% Anthony J. Lopez-Cisneros 12,778 15.1% Maggie Kohls (Libertarian) 4,396 5.2%
2004 Luis Gutiérrez (inc.) 104,761 83.7% Anthony J. Lopez-Cisneros 15,536 12.4% Jake Witmer (Libertarian) 4,845 3.9%
2006 Luis Gutiérrez (inc.) 69,910 85.8% Ann Melichar 11,532 14.2%
2008 Luis Gutiérrez (inc.) 112,529 80.6% Daniel Cunningham 16,024 11.5% Omar N. López (Green) 11,053 7.9%
2010 Luis Gutiérrez (inc.) 63,273 77.4% Israel Vasquez 11,711 14.3% Robert J. Burns (Green) 6,808 8.3%
2012 Luis Gutiérrez (inc.) 133,226 83% Héctor Concepción 27,279 17% Ymelda Viramontes (Write-in) 4 0%

Electoral history

Gutiérrez is an avid golf player.[58]

Roberto Maldonado, 26th ward alderman and former Cook County Commissioner, is Gutiérrez' former brother-in-law.[56][57]

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.[9] Soraida battled and survived cancer in the 2000s.[55]

Personal life

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.[54]

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.

Mayoral candidacy speculation

Gutiérrez was a member of the Judiciary Committee during the 110th and 111th Congress,[52] serving on the Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law Subcommittee.[53] During that same period of time he was the Chair of the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit of the Financial Services Committee.[12]

Congressman Gutiérrez sits on the following House Committees:

Upon arriving to 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."[51]

Committee assignments

Gutiérrez's progressive political stances are often challenged by Right-wing political commentators. Since 2008 Gutiérrez has been the subject of several critical stories in the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, detailing his relationship with former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, and the real estate dealings of Gutierrez and his family.[42][43][44][45][46][47][48][49][50]


With a background as a community activist and organizer Gutiérrez often uses non-violent civil disobedience when pushing political causes and legislation. He was arrested in May 2000 in protest of the US military using the inhabited Puerto Rican island of Vieques as a bombing range, and again in May 2010 in protest of presidential inaction on immigration reform.[31][36] In 2010 and 2011 he was arrested protesting presidential inaction on immigration reform and a record-breaking one-million deportations under President Obama.

Use of civil disobedience

When the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) declared its plan to close down the Douglas Branch of the then Blue Line – which serves primarily working-class Latino communities – Gutiérrez successfully secured $320 million in federal funding to reconstruct Blue Line stops and pressed the CTA to re-instate full service.[12] The Douglas Branch is now known as the Pink Line (CTA).

Public transportation

In 1994 Gutiérrez was a vocal opponent of NAFTA and ultimately voted against the measure because of the legislation's failure to provide for worker retraining, protect against American job loss, and protect Mexican workers' collective bargaining rights.[41]

Gutiérrez is a close ally of organized labor and has voted repeatedly to protect and expand workers' rights. In 2008 Gutiérrez was one of the principal elected officials that assisted workers of the Chicago-based Republic Windows and Doors during their successful sit-in. The workers had lost their jobs without advance notice, allegedly due to a refusal of credit from Bank of America after the bailout of the financial system. He met with workers and helped them broker a deal with Bank of America.[39] Gutiérrez views his advocacy for workers' rights and immigrant rights as invariably related. He is frequently invited to speak and present before labor unions.[40]

Workers' rights

In 2011, Gutiérrez came out against human rights abuses occurring on the island – specifically police brutality perpetrated against University of Puerto Rico students critical of the island's government and a law passed by the Fortuño government that sought to limit student's freedom of speech. Gutiérrez also spoke out against a proposed pipeline which would degrade the island's lush tropical habitat and potentially put residents living near the proposed pipeline in danger.[37][38]

Gutiérrez has been an outspoken advocate for human and civil rights of the Puerto Rican people. In the late 1990s and the 2000s, he was a leader in the Vieques movement, which sought to stop the United States military from using the inhabited island as a bomb testing ground. In May 2000, Gutiérrez was one of nearly two hundred people arrested for refusing to leave the natural habitat the US military wished to continue using as a bombing range.[36]

Puerto Rico

Gutiérrez's assistance was pivotal in securing $92 million in additional healthcare and prosthetic funding for veterans.[12]

While Gutiérrez was a member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, the House passed legislation introduced by Gutiérrez that made treatment and counseling available to veterans who have been victims of sexual trauma.[12] Gutiérrez also successfully expanded healthcare coverage to those exposed to Agent Orange and high levels of radiation during military service.[12]

Veterans' access to health care

[12]Following CIR-ASAP's defeat in the Congress, Gutiérrez has been a main backer of the DREAM Act in the House.
My bill will promote fair immigration proceedings, humane treatment of immigration detainees, and policies that respect the tenet of community policing. No more raids in our community, no more separation of our families. Now, none of this works without a strong commitment to America’s labor force. None of it works without a strong commitment. So one of the tenets of our bill will be comprehensive immigration reform, has to mean—has to mean—to protecting all workers.
— Luis Gutiérrez, [35]
He described the bill before a Washington DC rally: [34].Service Employees International Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers, AFL-CIOGutiérrez was the first elected official to sponsor a version of the

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.[33]

On July 26, 2011, in response to a record-breaking one-million deportations under President Obama, and the President's continued refusal to stop deportations of DREAM Act eligible youth, Gutiérrez and eleven labor, faith, and civil rights leaders were arrested outside 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.[32]

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.[31]

Gutiérrez has been called the "undisputed champion of immigration reform" and "Moses of the Latinos" due to his many years advocating for immigrant rights.[29] [30]

Immigration reform and immigrant rights

Gutiérrez was also a principal backer of the Dodd-Frank bill that created the United States Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.[12]

In February 2009, Gutiérrez introduced H.R. 1214, the "Payday Loan Reform Act of 2009," co-sponsored by other members of the House of Representatives, including members of the House leadership. H.R. 1214 would cap the annual percentage rate (APR) for payday loans at 391 percent in the 23 states where it is now allowed to exceed 391 percent.[26][27][28]

Consumer rights

[12] Gutiérrez's district office was the first congressional office to seek and receive community organization designation as a result of the depth and breadth of constituent services it provides.[4] Within his district, he has run workshops which have helped more than 50,000 people begin the process of becoming US citizens.[12]The representative of a culturally diverse district, he has run programs on a local level to increase education levels and knowledge of the English language among immigrants.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel assists a constituent apply for US citizenship at Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez's monthly citizenship workshop. Since 1993 Congressman Gutierrez has helped over 50,000 immigrants apply for citizenship.

Constituent services

In 2009 Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi appointed Gutiérrez Chair of the Democratic Caucus Immigration Task Force. He continues to serve as the Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force. In these roles he has served as the Congress's "leading strategist and spokesperson on immigration issues."[12]

Party leadership and Caucus membership


In 1994, Gutierrez defeated Soliz in the primary by an even larger margin 64%-36%,[22] and won re-election to a second term in the general election with 75% of the vote, the lowest winning percentage in a general election in his career.[23] From 1996 to 2008, Gutiérrez won re-election seven times, each time with more than 80% of the vote.[24] In 2010, he won re-election to his tenth term with 77% of the vote.[25]

Re-elections (1994-2010)

Despite the district's majority Mexican-American population and Soliz's highly negative campaign, Gutiérrez won the Democratic primary 60%-40%.[18][19][20] 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."[20] Billy Ocasio was later tapped to replace Gutierrez in the Chicago City Council in January 1993. In the general election, he defeated Republican nominee Hildegarde Rodriguez-Schieman 78%-22%.[21]

In 1990, a court order created a new "earmuff-shaped" majority Latino congressional district, with two main sections in Chicago connected by a thin corridor in the suburbs. 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 Joseph Berrios, and Juan Soliz, former Alderman of 25th ward.[17] Mell, the only white candidate, entered the race out of his "personal dislike for Gutiérrez." [18] Gutiérrez received the endorsement of Mayor Richard M. Daley, and all but one of his opponents, Juan Soliz, dropped out of the race.[17]

Election (1992)


U.S. House of Representatives

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.[9]

In the 1987 municipal elections, Gutiérrez faced five opponents and was re-elected to the City Council with 66% of the vote.[14] 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."[16]

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.[14]

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.[14] 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."[14]

Chicago City Council

On the eve of the Gutiérrez-Torres run-off, Spanish language television aired the candidates' final debate. Gutiérrez, who spoke Spanish during the debate, outperformed Torres, who chose to speak entirely in English. Gutiérrez's use of Spanish and his grassroots organizing are credited for his 53%–47% victory over Torres. Gutiérrez is reported to have said during the election: "My supporters could give a damn about the Democratic Party. They're ready to work on whatever it is that moves socioeconomic justice ahead."[13][14]

Gutiérrez's campaign volunteers were primarily women,"ex-hippies and... community activists-black, white and Hispanic."[9] With the campaign theme: "Church, Family, Community," support from Mayor Harold Washington – who donated $12,000 to Gutiérrez – and the now 250 members of the West Town-26th Ward Independent Political Organization as volunteers, Gutiérrez bested Torres by 22 votes, a margin not large enough to avoid a run-off against Torres.[13][15]

[14].Dick Mell and Ed Burke, and machine Alderman Richard M. Daley, future mayor and then State's Attorney Jane Byrne, then a member of the Democratic machine and Cook County Commissioner, also entered the race for 26th ward Alderman. Torres was endorsed by Vrdolyak, former mayor Manuel Torres. The 1986 special elections gave Washington the opportunity to take control of the city council. Because the six other special elections were all but decided, control of the council came down to the race in the 26th ward. Council Wars of the 10th ward, controlled the City Council. This divide within city government was dubbed by the Chicago media as Ed Vrdolyak The incumbent alderman of the 26th ward, Michael Nardulli, an Italian-American, chose not to seek re-election in the newly drawn majority Latino district. Gutiérrez declared his candidacy for alderman of the 26th ward and soon received the endorsement of Mayor Harold Washington. At the time of the election, opponents to Washington's administration, led by [14] In December 1985, as a result of a November 1985 ward remap, district court judge

Mayor Harold Washington was a key backer of Gutierrez's 1986 bid for 26th ward alderman.

1986 Aldermanic election


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