Though Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) recently praised Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) for making Chicago the “friendliest” city for immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, pro-amnesty advocates and progressives are lining up beyond his opponent, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who is in a dead heat with Emanuel in the mayoral runoff.
As Hillary Clinton found out during the 2008 election cycle when endorsements from prominent black lawmakers failed to convince black voters to support her over Barack Obama, Emanuel may discover that Gutierrez’s endorsement may not be enough to win over progressives, Latinos, and amnesty advocates who have always viewed Emanuel–and his ties to the centrist Clinton wing of the Democratic party and Wall Street–with much skepticism if not outright disdain.
NBC News, which noted that “Chicago is home to the U.S.’s second largest population of Mexican-born residents,” reported that Garcia, who was born in Mexico, is getting the support from Latinos and progressives from coast to coast. And Garcia’s work on behalf of illegal immigrants is a prominent reason for that support.
Prominent Latino executives in Hollywood are planning a March 19 fundraiser for Garcia and those expected to attend include, according to NBC News:
Walter Ulloa, CEO of Entravision; film producer Montesuma Esparza, who backed “Selena” and “Milagro Beanfield War,”; Gil Vasquez, who founded Vasquez & Co. LLP accounting firm and Los Angeles City Council Member Gil Sedillo
Arturo Carmona, executive director of Presente.org, told the outlet that “similar efforts are going to be happening across the country and all of these efforts really focus on supporting beyond Chuy Garcia, the Latino progressive community organizer-coalition builder that he is.”
“Rahm Emanuel should always be remembered as the Democrat who has been the mastermind of policies that have inflicted the most pain and damage on Latino families, particularly immigrants, we have seen in a generation,” Carmona added.
Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), who chairs the House Progressive Caucus, and Danny Davis (D-IL) will hold a March 24 fundraiser for Garcia that will reportedly include “members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.” As the Huffington Post noted, left-wing Democrats see the race “as a contest between the Democratic establishment, in the person of Emanuel, and the more grassroots, populist elements of the party.” Emanuel has even upset black Democrats with his Chicago school closings, and Jesse Jackson ended up endorsing Garcia.
“There needs to be a national presence,” Grijalva told the Huffington Post. “Just like when we rallied behind [former Mayor] Antonio Villaraigosa in Los Angeles — not only porque es Latino, but because he’s right on the issues… Here’s an opportunity to create a coalition led by a Latino, supported by African-Americans and working folk.”
Grijalva was even more critical of Emanuel in 2010.
“There’s always a sense that no matter how hard we work, to get through the White House, we have to get through Rahm,” he said then, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I would like immigration not to be part of the chief of staff’s portfolio. It would make our ability to convince and access decision-makers in the White House a lot easier.”
As the Huffington Post noted, Gutierrez was also critical of Emanuel on immigration in 2011.
“He told targeted Democrats in tough re-election fights that he wanted them to vote for this anti-immigrant bill,” Gutierrez said then. “That’s a fact, an irrefutable fact. So it’s nice that Rahm Emanuel the candidate is for the DREAM Act kids now, but actions speak louder than words.”
Gutierrez has since changed his tune. As Breitbart News noted, he has touted Emanuel’s help regarding Obama’s executive amnesty and highlighted that Emanuel “made sure that we no longer cooperate with immigration authorities when it comes to the deportation or separation of our families” and “no one can be asked” about their immigration status at schools and hospitals. Gutierrez also “said that Chicago is the only city in the nation where illegal immigrants are guaranteed two years of free college if they graduate with a B average from high school” because of Emanuel.
Some pro-amnesty advocates, though, have called out Gutierrez for supporting a politician that Gutierrez admitted he once worked tirelessly to defeat.
Carlos Arango, “an immigration reform activist” in Chicago has said that “Gutierrez is really dishonest” for supporting Emanuel.
Garcia has reminded voters that Emanuel angered progressives and pro-amnesty advocates when he declared immigration was the third rail of politics. Obama, even with Democrats controlling Congress, could not get the amnesty legislation he promised Hispanics passed in his first term when Emanuel was his chief of staff. Univision’s Jorge Ramos even called Obama out during Obama’s reelection campaign for not getting a massive comprehensive amnesty bill passed. “A promise is a promise,” Ramos chided the president during a 2012 interview.
“The bad Rahm when he was in the Clinton and Obama White House, telling them not to move forward with significant immigration reform,” Garcia has reportedly said on the stump. “And then over the past three years, a convert to being very pro-immigrant, saying the right thing.”
The most recent poll shows the race is a virtual dead heat, with 43.5% supporting Emanuel, 38% supporting Garcia, and 18% undecided. The March 7 Ogden Fry poll’s margin of error is +/- 3.13 percentage points.
Obama’s campaign effectively mobilized black voters in the primary and two general elections. Garcia’s upstart campaign must do the same with Hispanics to shock Emanuel in the April 7 runoff.
As the Chicago Sun-Times noted, “according to census data from 2010, Hispanics make up just shy of 29 percent of the city’s population — but they account for only 13 to 15 percent of the electorate,” and, “like any other group, Hispanics in Chicago aren’t monolithic. There are North Side and South Side divisions; Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Argentines and every Latin country in between.”
Ricardo Munoz, an alderman who supports Garcia, told the outlet that the mainstream media, which also blindly followed the polls and missed the latent enthusiasm for Obama among black Democrats in 2007, “is missing the boat on what kind of momentum is building in the Latino community.”
“There will be a robust communications program with TV, radio and mail to talk to voters,” he said. “Then, he’s going to churches and community centers all over the city to make sure they come out to vote.”
Garcia campaign manager Andrew Sharp told the Sun-Times that, “What we expect in the next round are two things — turnout to increase and the level of support to increase.”
Reports from a pro-amnesty rally in Chicago this weekend may indicate that Garcia is picking up support among Latinos.
According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, pro-amnesty advocates held a rally in Chicago demanding amnesty for those who will not qualify under Obama’s most recent executive amnesty.
One protester, “Sabino Pineda, 43, wore a campaign button for mayoral candidate Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia onstage as he spoke about the pain of losing a job because he is in the U.S. without legal permission.” Pineda told the crowd that “he once went to a police station to report a robbery and instead was hassled because he lacked a driver’s license.”
“I went looking for justice, and what I found was discrimination,” Pineda reportedly said.
Maria de Los Angeles Torres, the director of Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago (U-IC), told NBC News that Garcia’s “long history of working on behalf” of illegal immigrants has “got the whole network of immigrant working for him.”
As Cook County commissioner, Garcia, as the Huffington Post noted, helped pass what the outlet said was a “trailblazing” piece of legislation that prevented authorities from honoring Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers.
In college, Garcia was reportedly “part of student organizing at UI-C to support workers without legal status and before that was mobilizing for immigrant workers among activists.”