One of President Donald J. Trump’s biggest detractors is Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who has pulled no punches in slamming the president over immigration issues. Saturday, he said he’s finally willing to concede to Trump’s proposed border wall, provided Republicans agree to legal protections for so-called “Dreamers.”
Gutierrez is so eager to protect the Dreamers that he’s willing to undertake construction of the wall himself. “I’ll take a bucket, take bricks, and start building it myself,” Gutierrez told reporters. “We will dirty our hands in order for the Dreamers to have a clean future in America.”
The Hill reports: The comments constitute a remarkable concession from the Chicago Democrat, among Capitol Hill’s most vocal immigration reform advocates and fiercest opponents of expanding wall construction at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The concession comes as other Democrats, including Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer(N.Y.), have said they could agree to a wall in exchange for protection for the Dreamers. Schumer has said he was close to a deal with Trump before the White House came forward with additional demands.
The issue was a major factor contributing to the impasse that led to the government shutdown Saturday morning. The immigration debate — including the wall — has been front-and-center in recent months, after Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an Obama-era initiative providing legal protections to hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the country illegally as kids.
Amid the debate, Democrats and some Republicans have pressed GOP leaders to attach DACA language to a government spending bill — a strategy Trump and the Republicans have rejected, favoring a stand-alone bill.
Gutierrez’s decision to embrace the wall is emblematic of that anxiety, signaling the lengths that immigration rights advocates are willing to go to secure an agreement on the Dreamers. Gutierrez made explicitly clear that he hasn’t changed his thinking about the wall, itself — a concept he characterized as a “demeaning” approach to immigrants and border policy.
“For me, why don’t you just take your middle finger and point it at Mexico? … Because it’s the same thing,” he said. “I really don’t believe that it’s about security. It’s about saying, ‘Brown people stay out of the country.’ And the president’s said as much.”
Gutierrez said he sees the wall as a price the Democrats will have to pay to secure the DACA protections — one he’s now willing to pay. “We’ve stopped arguing that it’s unnecessary, because it’s ransom,” he said.
Senate GOP leaders agreed to stage a vote by Feb. 8 on a bipartisan bill, sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), that couples DACA protections with tougher border security efforts. The bill faces stiff headwinds, however, after Trump rejected the proposal last week, siding with conservative immigration hawks who deem it too soft on enforcement. Gutierrez said Graham and Durbin, who include some new wall funding in their DACA bill, should have simply offered more to win the president’s support.
“I don’t know why the president, when Durbin and Graham walked it, why he didn’t just say, ‘Double it, and I want it in the first year,’” Gutierrez said. “Done. Let’s move forward.”
Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez says he would be willing to build a wall to get a DACA deal: “A brick for lives? Okay. Let’s do it.” https://t.co/I2ap1qhELw
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 20, 2018
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EXPOSED: How Schumer responded to shutdown in 2013 (video)