Luis Gutierrez tells Senate Democrats: ‘Step aside’ and let Obama act

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) on Wednesday condemned Senate Democrats who are urging President Barack Obama to delay announcing his executive orders on immigration and asked…

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., speaks at a news conference in Chicago two months ago. On Wednesday, he asked Democrats urging Obama to delay executive action on immigration to “step aside” and the let the president act. (AP Photo/Stacy Thacker)

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) on Wednesday condemned Senate Democrats who are urging President Barack Obama to delay announcing his executive orders on immigration and asked them to “step aside.”

“I say to the Democrats: Stand aside,” Gutierrez said on a conference call with reporters hosted by America’s Voice. “Let the president make the decision. Let him announce it and stop this stopping the progress of our community towards justice. Just step aside.”

Gutierrez has long-been one of the most outspoken advocates of immigration reform. Most recently, in the face of inaction on immigration reform by House Republicans, he has been urging Obama to act on his own and allow millions of undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States and work without fear of deportation.

But as the Democratic leader from Illinois noted during Wednesday’s conference call, not all Democrats are advocating for Obama to make sweeping changes to immigration policy.

SEE ALSO: Obama still intends to take executive action on immigration

Some Senate Democrats have urged Obama to delay taking executive action on immigration until after the midterm elections instead of at the end of the summer, like the president had planned. They’re concerned that unilateral action by the president will fire up the Republican base and mobilize conservatives to turn out to vote. As a result, Democrats in tight races could lose their seats and the party could, therefore, lose control of the Senate.

Gutierrez said he understands those concerns, but he insisted that Democrats can’t “stand up” for immigrants one day and “shun them politically” another day.

“Democrats have to come to understand that you can’t pick and choose what year you’re for immigrants,” he said. “You can’t pick and choose when they’re good for you.”

Lorella Praeli, director of advocacy and policy for United We Dream, said those Democrats who are trying to influence Obama to delay executive actions should expect to see consequences for their actions. She said Dreamers are ready to go after them the same way they’re currently going after Republicans who voted to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects undocumented youth from deportation and allows them to work.

“When Republicans attack us and when Democrats don’t deliver, we are not afraid to step in and challenge power and to confront it and to expose people for the choices that they are making,” Praeli said.

SEE ALSO: Immigrants calling for administrative relief arrested at White House

Among the Democrats who oppose Obama taking executive action on mmigration are Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, Alaska Sen. Mark Begich and North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan. They are all facing tough re-election bids and are concerned about the political backlash that could come if Obama takes executive actions on immigration before the midterm elections.

But Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, said these Democrats should consider that Obama taking executive action on immigration could actually mobilize Democrats to turn out to vote. He said that’s exactly what happened in 2012, when the president announced the deferred action program for undocumented youth.

“Democrats want to see this president acting boldly to help real people,” Sharry said.

Clarissa Martinez de Castro, director of civic engagement and immigration at the National Council of La Raza, agreed with Sharry and added that encouraging Obama to take executive action is an opportunity for Democrats to “solidify their brand” with immigrants. In other words, she said, “Democrats need to show that they can deliver, not just that they can talk pretty.”

SEE ALSO: Marco Rubio’s changing views on immigration not sitting well with advocates