He has been a ubiquitous presence on the national Spanish-language newscasts of Univision and Telemundo, mostly talking about the need for immigration reform. That history has given him outsize influence on the debate among some of the people most directly affected by the issue.
“There are only a few names that are familiar to most Hispanic families, and Luis Gutierrez is one of them,” said Jorge Ramos, who anchors Univision’s nightly newscast, “Noticiero Univision,” and its Sunday public affairs show, “Al Punto.” (Which means “To the Point.”)
Ramos said Gutierrez can draw a crowd “not just because he’s always on, but because he’s on the right side of history, or he’s on the side of Latinos and undocumented immigrants.”
Gutierrez has been pushing for changes in immigration law since winning his congressional seat in the early 1990s. His workshops on how to navigate the citizenship process regularly draw hundreds of constituents and he has been working for months on a bipartisan proposal as part of the House’s Group of Seven, which is expected to present a plan after lawmakers’ summer recess.
The bilingual nature of the immigration debate, and the political implications of the demographic boom in the number of Latino voters, has meant new visibility for Spanish-language media. Gutierrez says that both political parties are only now beginning to understand how Spanish-language media can shape public opinion.
“I see a lot of the non-Hispanic congressmen and they look at me and they say, ‘Oh, he had a press conference and a couple of ethnic TV camera crews showed up from the ethnic stations,’ ” Gutierrez said. “They’re not ethnic stations. These are stations that are reaching tens of millions of people in America and are providing many voters — and many more immigrants that are not voters yet — with the information they use to formulate their views on politicians, politics, who’s on their side and who’s against them.”
Seeking GOP support
On a recent afternoon after an interview with The Washington Post, Gutierrez walked out of his office and found Lori Montenegro, Telemundo’s congressional correspondent, who wanted five minutes of his time.