MISSION, January 5 - U.S. Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez is temporarily leaving a top House committee in order to focus on upcoming immigration reform legislation.
The Illinois Democrat is chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus's immigration task force and widely regarded as the leading advocate for comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S. House. He announced Friday that he will take a leave of absence from the House Financial Services Committee to serve on the Judiciary Committee. This committee will consider immigration reform legislation.
Gutierrez, first elected in 1992 and serving in his eleventh term, is the third ranking Democrat on Financial Services Committee. His seniority on the Judiciary Committee will be much lower. He will probably only be the 13th ranking Democrat on the panel. His request for the switch won the backing of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and leaders of the Democratic Caucus.
Gutierrez gave this statement about the switch in House committees:
"Giving up 20-plus years of seniority on Financial Services, even temporarily, is not easy, but passing comprehensive immigration reform is my passion and my commitment to my constituents and immigrants all across our country.
"All of the road signs are pointed in the right direction, and I felt I must be on the Judiciary Committee during this Congress to help the others on the Committee get immigration reform to the finish line. We are poised for serious action to fix our broken immigration system, a top priority for Democrats, for the Democratic Leadership, and for the President, and I have spoken to numerous Republicans in the House and Senate who want to get it done.
"We have record levels of deportations and millions of families separated by borders and out-of-date laws. We can't wait and wait and wait for immigration reform, and I am finding an enthusiasm for action that I have not seen on Capitol Hill for years.
"One of the main obstacles to a serious conversation on immigration reform was the small group of people holding the issue hostage to the notion that 12 million people had to leave the country and no new legal immigrants could be added. That argument is dead and the funeral was on Election Night when Gov. Romney and his hard line approach fell in stunning defeat and the overwhelming majority of Latino voters rejected the Republican approach.
"Now we need all hands on deck to make sure that legislation moves and that it makes our immigration system work for the American people first and foremost and for both new immigrants and those who are already here. We need an immigration system that is as smart and generous as the American people and that serves the needs of our 21st Century economy. What we have now is two- or three-decades out of date and separates families, keeps people locked in the underground, and does not live up to the expectations the American people have for an immigration system that has always been such a crucial aspect of our nation's identity.
"I appreciate the seriousness with which the Democratic Leadership and my Democratic colleagues are taking with this issue and for allowing me to adjust my committee assignments so that I could continue to lead on the immigration issue. I look forward to working with the Chairman and the Subcommittee Chairmen and the Ranking Member, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and the Immigration Subcommittee Ranking Leader, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., in crafting bipartisan immigration reform that fixes our broken immigration system."