A Proud Immigrant's View
Prodded to learn English by an elderly bellhop at a Miami hotel, he became an American citizen in 1966. To this day, Gutierrez says, he considers his U.S. passport his "most valued possession" and is proud of being an immigrant who has lived the American dream. In recent weeks, Gutierrez has become a point man arguing the case for President Bush's plan for overhauling immigration laws as Congress holds a new round of hearings across the country.
What have you learned during your travels to promote President Bush's immigration plan?
What I found was that people are very receptive to the idea of comprehensive immigration reform. When they think about it, they talk through it, they ask questions, as opposed to just getting very emotional. If we could just set aside the emotions and think about what is the best thing for our country and work out the details, we can come up with comprehensive reform.
Will the current series of congressional hearings on immigration delay legislation?
If the hearings are going to bring out average Americans ... then it's a great thing because we want members of Congress to hear from a good cross section of Americans. I would hope it's not being used as a delay tactic, but I'm looking at it with a very positive view.
What is the administration's legislative strategy?
The comprehensive reform needs to be in one bill. We've started to work on the border. We've started adding National Guard. We've gone ahead with the next phase of the border plan--I say next phase, because the president's already added Border Patrol and we've sent back 6 million people since he's been in office. The longer we wait, the bigger the problem we are passing on to a future generation or a future administration or a future leadership. Every year, this problem gets more difficult to solve.
In your view, what are the realities underlying the need for legislation?
There are industries throughout our country that have a shortage of labor. There are jobs that the American citizens don't want. There are jobs that our economy needs, that our people aren't willing to do or aren't available to do. The other reality is, we have 12 million people [illegally] in the country; they in turn have 3 million children. As the president said, we're not going to deport 12 million people--it's not practical, it's not wise, it's not humane. So what do we do with them? In order to figure that out, we need to enable them to raise their hand and come out of the shadows.
Why the emphasis on English?
Everyone needs to understand that people need to learn English. And that's a very simple, basic rule--but we are doing people a great disservice if in some corners of our country or some communities they are hearing that they don't have to learn English and they don't have to assimilate.