By Katherine Skiba
12:21 PM EDT, March 19, 2013
WASHINGTON – Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Chicago, a key player in the bipartisan push for comprehensive immigration reform, said today he is hopeful that Congress will act on the issue in early April after the Easter recess.
"Immigration is incredibly complicated," Gutierrez told reporters, saying he did not expect legislation – or even a bipartisan set of principles – to be introduced in the House this week.
He said, instead, that he hopes the process "will move forward quickly" in the House and Senate when lawmakers return the week of April 8. Key Republicans have departed from hard-line positions of the past, he noted.
Gutierrez, a Democrat who has focused on immigration since he first was elected to Congress in 1992, said the "moment is politically right" for comprehensive reform now and as more time passes after November's elections, there would be less urgency and a lower likelihood of success.
He said he would not support a bill that does not feature a pathway for citizenship. "I would like a clean, clear, quick path to citizenship," he noted, but "I don't get to write the bill by myself."
In response to a question, Gutierrez said that while he had done all that he could to stop Rahm Emanuel from becoming mayor of Chicago in 2011, he now gives him an "A" grade and admires his work for many reasons, including his aim to make the city the most immigrant-friendly in the nation.
Gutierrez, who had backed former Chicago schools president Gery Chico, said he had opposed Emanuel because as President Barack Obama's first chief of staff he was behind an enforcement-only push that led to mass deportations.
The lawmaker said the ongoing deportations of 1,400 people daily highlighted the need for reforms, noting that even if Congress were to move at "lightning speed" and Obama were to sign a bill in July, by then 150,000 more people will have been deported.
He said Emanuel, who lost all the city's Latino wards in 2011, phoned him after the mayoral election and said: "Luis, let's take an eraser" to move past differences. While they disagree on some issues, if the mayor runs for re-election, Gutierrez will campaign for him, the congressman said.
He spoke to reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
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