Trump announced plans last month to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an Obama-era program that had provided two-year work permits that Trump called “unconstitutional.” In response, Gutierrez has been pushing with other Democrats for a quick up-or-down vote on legislation that would permanently provide legal status for those protected by the program, known as “dreamers.” He raised doubts last month about a deal to protect DACA recipients reached between Trump, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
“I warned Democrats not to negotiate, to say that what we wanted was a clean Dream Act,” Gutierrez said in an interview late Sunday. “It’s a slippery slope — I never understood why everybody wanted to sit down and negotiate. I’ve been there 20 years and this is the same negotiation we’ve had for the last 20 years. They’re throwing everything and the kitchen sink in terms of enforcement. I just never understood it.”
Trump “has never wavered from his xenophobic positions. I never understood — I just never got it, how you go from Charlottesville and white supremacists to reaching an agreement with him,” he added.
“It’s an extension of the white supremacist agenda — what they want to do is criminalize and delegitimize Latinos,” Gutierrez said.
In a joint statement Sunday night, Schumer and Pelosi said that the Trump administration “can’t be serious about compromise or helping the Dreamers if they begin with a list that is anathema to the Dreamers, to the immigrant community and to the vast majority of Americans.
“This proposal fails to represent any attempt at compromise,” the Democratic leaders said, adding later that “if the President was serious about protecting the Dreamers, his staff has not made a good-faith effort to do so.”
Gutierrez, who has been a congressman since 1993 and represents the Chicago area, renewed calls for Democrats to withhold support for upcoming legislation that would raise the federal debt limit and set government spending levels. A vote is scheduled for Dec. 9.
That date, the congressman said, “is going to be a moment of definition” for Democrats. “If we approve a budget, which doesn’t include the Dream Act, then we’ve turned our back on our immigrant community and our principles.”
He added: “There’s a debt ceiling vote coming up, there’s a budget vote coming up — I’m not saying we should shut down the government, but if you want a budget with Democratic votes, then it’s got to have some Democratic priorities,” he added.