PI Original Micah Maidenberg Friday January 14th, 2011, 6:45pm

Gutierrez Blasts Emanuel On Immigration

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, one of the leading advocates for a comprehensive immigration reform bill, said Rahm Emanuel "has not stood up for immigrants."

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez minced no words Friday in blasting Rahm Emanuel's positions on immigration reform in recent years, saying Chicago's mayoral front-runner "took actions to harm immigrants" as a member of Congress and during his tenure as President Barack Obama's chief of staff.

"He has not stood up for immigrants. He has not moved comprehensive immigration reform forward. He has not made the right decisions, he has made political decisions," Gutierrez said. "That's not what the immigrant community deserves in the next mayor of the city of Chicago."

Gutierrez considered a run of his own for mayor before deciding to return to Washington and support Gery Chico's bid for city government's top spot.

The 4th District congressman, one of the leading voices in Washington in favor of a comprehensive immigration reform bill, revisited the tactical maneuverings he said Emanuel deployed when the so-called "Sensenbrenner bill," a piece of legislation that would have effectively criminalized undocumented immigrants, was before the GOP-controlled House in 2005. Here's Gutierrez explaining what happened:

Emanuel voted against the bill, and one of his spokespersons denied that Emanuel told vulnerable Democratic congressmen to vote for the bill, according to past news reports.

But the Sensenbrenner vote isn't the only issue that has immigrants and advocates criticizing Emanuel.

Emanuel has called immigration reform the "third rail" of American politics and argued that last year was not a good one for pushing for reform legislation. Many reformers are also furious with the deportation policy of the Obama administration (which, of course, Emanuel helped to lead); and yesterday at City Council, aldermen adopted a resolution calling for an end to deportations that break up families that include documented and undocumented immigrants.

A comprehensive immigration bill is now unlikely with the GOP in control of the House, Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez's comments came at a press conference where the Illinois Coalition for Immigration and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) released a scathing new report about the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency's "Secure Communities" program in the state.

ICIRR found that 77 percent of all immigrants arrested through July of last year in the 26 Illinois counties that participate in "Secure Communities" have no past criminal convictions.

"Secure Communities" was meant to be a new way for local law enforcement to remove dangerous criminals from the country, ICIRR's report states, by encouraging county jails to check suspects' fingerprints against immigration databases. ICE can then step in and start deportation proceedings.

"The Secure Communities program is badly broken," said Josh Hoyt, executive director of ICIRR, "deporting nannies and busboys instead of truly bad people."

Susana Ramirez, a resident of McHenry County, recounted her brush with law enforcement through Secure Communities, with Hoyt translating:

ICIRR wants the Obama administration to bring Secure Communities "in line with its original intention to identifying convicted criminals, so that ICE and local law enforcement can focus on the truly harmful, and not on immigrants who pose no threat." The organization also called on state officials to withdraw from the program.

Carol Moseley Braun and Gery Chico also expressed support for immigration reform at the ICIRR press conference today, and Miguel del Valle has been in the forefront of the mayoral contenders in blasting Emanuel's immigration positions in the past.

ICIRR's report and Gutierrez's comments came a day after Emanuel's mayoral campaign proposed creating a new fund with business and civic leaders to help so-called DREAM students -- children of undocumented immigrants who have grown up in the U.S. -- go to college.

But Gutierrez said the proposal is "too little too late."

"It's another example of Rahm the candidate's rhetoric not matching Rahm the congressman's record," he said.

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