Similar packs of Spanish-language reporters seek out Gutierrez on the road as he attempts to press his immigration agenda by urging GOP colleagues who may not be naturally inclined to support immigration reform.
“I go to Republican districts, I raise the level of consciousness and awareness among the public and the news media in that congressman’s district,” Gutierrez said in an interview. “And I invite the Republican congressmen to join me, because from that sense of confidence and camaraderie that is created there, you can get the kinds of votes you need.”
In July he visited Republican congressional districts in California, Colorado, Florida, Oregon, Texas and Washington and plans similar stops this month in the Midwest and in the Virginia districts of House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Of the eight events Gutierrez held in July across the country, only one Republican, Rep. David Valadao (Calif.), agreed to join him. Regardless, Gutierrez insisted that the recently approved Senate immigration bill could easily pass the House, because dozens of House Republicans have privately told him they would vote for it.
“If they asked me today, go find 40 to 50 Republicans, I’d tell them I found them,” Gutierrez said. “I know where they’re at. They’re here. They’re present.”
In early July, Gutierrez shared a Las Vegas stage with Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). Reid was hoping that Gutierrez’s visit might put pressure on the state’s two Republican congressmen to support the Senate bill.
The crowd chanted “Harry! Harry! Harry!” when Reid took the stage, but the Senate leader was only the warm-up act, and many people stirred impatiently waiting for the headliner.
When Reid introduced Gutierrez, the crowd jumped to its feet and screamed. Switching between English and Spanish, he thanked Reid for passing the Senate immigration bill and demanded that Boehner do the same.
Directing his words at GOP colleagues in Washington, Gutierrez said that “si ustedes quieren votar en contra, voten en contra.” (“If you want to vote against the bills, vote against them.”) “Pero permiten que la mayoria de la Camara de Representantes afirmen derechos de los imigrantes aqui en este pais.” (“But allow for the majority of the House of Representatives to strengthen the rights of immigrants here in this country.”)
After the speech, Gutierrez was swarmed.
“Gracias. Thank you so much for inspiring us,” one young girl told him as she had her picture taken with him. Another man called him “un famoso congresista” while an older woman who used to live in Chicago told Gutierrez that she remembered when he served on the City Council and that she had been tracking his congressional career — on television.
“Are you going to be here tomorrow?” a younger man asked.
No, Gutierrez said, he had to leave quickly for the airport. But first he consented to quick interviews with reporters from the local affiliates of Univision and Telemundo.