WASHINGTON -- Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said this week that some Democrats are trying to undermine his and others' work with Republicans on immigration, just so they can keep the issue for a political edge.
"When someone does reach across the aisle to say, 'Hey, let's work on this issue together,' what do we get? 'Hey, why are you helping them?'" he said on the House floor Wednesday, explaining what he hears from other Democrats. "I've heard it. When I stood with [Reps.] David Valadao [R-Calif.] or Paul Ryan [R-Wis.] to say immigration reform is an objective we can reach in a bipartisan manner, I heard from the Democrats, 'Stop working with them, we're trying to defeat them.'"
Gutierrez is one of the most vocal proponents of comprehensive immigration reform, and hasn't minced words in his criticism of House Republicans who want to block the effort. But he has also worked with GOP members for years on an immigration plan and more recently appeared with Republicans, including Valadao and Ryan, to talk about the need for reform. And he has criticized his own party for its previous failures on reform, particularly President Barack Obama, whom he singled out again on Thursday for his administration's deportation rates.
While many argue immigration reform would be politically helpful for Republicans who want to be more competitive with Latino voters, it's considered a political win for Democrats whatever the outcome. If it passes, they have fulfilled a campaign promise and can claim a victory. If it fails, they can lay the blame on Republicans, who in the House have refused to hold a vote on comprehensive immigration reform bills and don't plan to vote on smaller bills this year, either.
But if Democrats want a bill passed -- and they say they do -- they can't do it without support from Republicans, and Gutierrez said he and others are working to ensure they get it. He appeared at a briefing on Wednesday with Reps. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Valadao to discuss young undocumented immigrants who want to join the military, and made the same appeal for bipartisan work on immigration reform.
"In this place bipartisanship is many times lauded, but rarely rewarded, and that's unfortunate," he said at the event. "Unfortunate for the nation and very unfortunate and dangerous as we move forward on comprehensive immigration reform."
"He didn't say, 'It's my way or the highway,'" Gutierrez said.
There are internal tensions on the Republican side as well from members pushing for reform. Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), who has been targeted by immigration advocates because of a high Latino population in his district, issued a statement on Friday expressing disappointment that the "House Republican leadership may punt the issue until 2014 for political reasons."
"It’s extremely frustrating and very disappointing to hear reports that the House does not plan on voting on immigration reform legislation this year," Heck said. "This is yet another example of the leadership vacuum in Washington that rightly has so many people frustrated with this dysfunctional Congress."
Watch Gutierrez's speech: