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Luis Gutierrez: Marco Rubio 'Questions' Rights For Undocumented Immigrants

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Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., center, accompanied by fellow House members, talk about the Dream Act during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., center, accompanied by fellow House members, talk about the Dream Act during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said Thursday that politicians who oppose the president's order protecting young undocumented immigrants from deportation -- including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) -- are following the same line of thinking as those who tried to thwart the Civil Rights and women's suffrage movements.

"There are always those that are going to question, 'I got it, why should you get it?'" Gutierrez said at a press conference. "That has happened to African Americans in their fight for civil rights, to women in the suffrage movement, to those with disabilities, to those working for marriage equality. They're always, 'Oh, I have these rights, I wonder why you should get them.'"

"I understand that Senator Rubio questions that," he continued.

It was a far cry from a few months ago when Gutierrez and other Democrats met with Rubio to discuss the senator's plan for a Dream Act-style bill to give temporary reprieve from deportation to young undocumented immigrants who kept a clean criminal record and either joined the military or attended college. Rubio said it would not include any path to legal permanent residency, a key difference from the Dream Act supported by Democrats.

On June 15, before Rubio introduced that legislation, President Barack Obama upped the stakes, announcing a directive to half deportations of the same undocumented immigrants. Rubio then shelved his plan.

Gutierrez has urged the president for years to stop deportations of some undocumented young people, especially after the Dream Act failed in the Senate in 2010. The directive won't grant a path to permanent legal status, as the original Dream Act would have, but it will allow many undocumented young people to apply for deferred action that will keep them from deportation for two years.

Rubio and a number of other Republicans opposed the decision, calling it an overreach of Obama's executive authority that would destroy the chances of any immigration reform legislation.

"There is broad support for the idea that we should figure out a way to help kids who are undocumented through no fault of their own, but there is also broad consensus that it should be done in a way that does not encourage illegal immigration in the future," Rubio said in a June statement. "This is a difficult balance to strike, one that this new policy, imposed by executive order, will make harder to achieve in the long run."

Gutierrez made the remarks at a press conference with fellow House Democrats in support of Obama's decision.

Undocumented young people will be able to apply beginning on Aug. 15 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for deferred action and work authorization under the program, which would protect them from deportation for two years so long as they meet certain conditions and keep a clean record.

About 15 members of Congress appeared at the press conference. Gutierrez pointed to the "broad coalition" and said Rubio and others should join it.

"There were 30 members of Congress, we've been going to church every Sunday, faithfully, and praying for comprehensive immigration reform," Gutierrez said. "I'm happy Senator Rubio recently got religion and is a convert. But for those of us that have been long-standing members of this tradition and of this faith in our immigrant community, we say welcome to him, and get a little more faith."

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