Once foes, Rahm and Rep. Gutierrez get chummy over immigration reform

Once foes, Rahm and Rep. Gutierrez get chummy over immigration reform
Luis Gutierrez expresses his support for a proposed city ordinance aimed at immigration reform. Photo by Nick Moroni

Two political rivals appear to have buried the hatchet, or, at the very least, saw the political value of uniting in a carefully orchestrated backslapping session over an issue likely to be huge in this fall’s election.

Together at Little Village High School Tuesday to announce a proposed city ordinance aimed at immigration reform, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Congressman Luis Gutierrez spent a good chunk of time showering each other with praise for their respective work toward immigration reform.

The irony is that for years Gutierrez had publicly blasted Emanuel for thwarting progress on the issue.

“If the mayor of the city of Chicago is going to work to make Chicago a model city with respect to policy and its treatment of immigrants, then I’m going to stand with that mayor,” Gutierrez told reporters.

“The thing that separated us from a public policy point of view was immigration,” he added, when he was asked about their relationship during Emanuel’s time in Congress and as White House chief of staff.  “The thing that’s uniting us after his [mayoral] election is immigration policy.”

Emanuel went so far as to say that Gutierrez and he were friends during his time in Congress and in the Obama White House, and that they remain chummy.

In 2010 and 2011, Gutierrez, a fierce proponent of comprehensive immigration reform,  was singing a different tune.

Emanuel was running for mayor at the time, and Gutierrez attacked Emanuel’s record on immigration every chance he got–check out the video above.

Gutierrez–who floated the idea of running for mayor, but ended up supporting Gery Chico–portrayed Emanuel as a consummate politician who regularly used his influence as a high-ranking House Democrat and Obama confidante to stand in the way of immigration reform because it was a politically risky issue. Emanuel once infamously called immigration reform “the third rail of American politics.”

Back then, Gutierrez also accused Emanuel–when Emanuel chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee–of convincing House Democrats in close races in 2006 to support legislation that would have actually given law enforcement agents incentive to turn undocumented immigrants over to federal authorities. That bill didn’t clear Congress, but it’s the antithesis of the city ordinance Emanuel announced Tuesday, which he called “the right thing to do.”

The new proposal–dubbed the “Welcoming City Ordinance”–would essentially beef up a 2006 city law that prohibits city agencies from asking about a person’s immigration status.

The new law would also apply to Chicago police officers, and would strictly prohibit them from turning over a person with a potential immigration violation to federal authorities unless that person has a criminal record, Emanuel said.

Emanuel’s proposed law follows public outcry earlier this year when a Cameroonian woman was stopped for a traffic violation and detained for two nights after Chicago police found a deportation order on her record.

The ordinance is part of a number of initiatives Emanuel has undertaken as mayor to make Chicago “the most immigrant-friendly city” in the world, the mayor’s office has said.

Fred Tsao, policy director at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said his organization supports the ordinance, and also noted that the mayor’s office reached out to ICRR before crafting it.

“One of the things that we’re hoping for, is some type of reaffirmation from the city, with respect to non-cooperation with the federal authorities’ [immigration requests],” Tsao said, in reference to mayoral executive orders undertaken by every mayor since Harold Washington.  “It’s a good, strong step in that direction.”

As for Emanuel’s chumminess with Gutierrez and his new-found–and politically advantageous–interest in immigration reform? He said numerous times that the ordinance is “in our best interest.”

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