On a night pocked by political-statement one-upmanship, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez made one of the loudest.
The Illinois Democrat, a vocal opponent of President Donald Trump, exited the House chamber as many in the crowd chanted, “USA, USA, USA,” near the conclusion of Trump’s speech Tuesday night.
Gutiérrez wasted no time issuing a statement trashing, in his words, “an outwardly, explicitly racist American President.”
“Even though I disagreed with almost everything he said, for Trump, the speech was clear and well-delivered,” Gutiérrez said in the statement.
“Whoever translated it for him from Russian did a good job,” he said.
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Gutiérrez, who is of Puerto Rican descent and lived on the island for three years during high school, has been an outspoken advocate for providing a pathway to citizenship for so-called Dreamers, immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children.
Though they lack legal documents of identification, Dreamers are protected from arrest and deportation by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.
Trump announced last September he would let DACA expire on March 5, giving Congress six months to reach a deal to reinstate the protections. With just over a month left before the deadline, Democrats and Republicans have not come to an agreement.
Gutiérrez does not foresee one either.
“The White House agenda is to gut legal immigration in exchange for allowing some of the Dreamers to live here. For those of us who support legal immigration, and that’s most Democrats and many Republicans, it won’t fly,” he said in his statement. “The Dreamers themselves have said they do not want legal status if it comes at the expense of others who will suffer more as part of the bargain. The speech did nothing to bring the pro- and anti-immigrant sides closer together.”
Republican lawmakers and pundits lauded the president for striking a conciliatory tone with Democrats in his first State of the Union address, a message the White House was set on imparting.
“This is a president who wants to lead for everybody,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday. “He’s not looking to lead for any one person, any one group, but he wants to be the president of the United States.”
Gutiérrez saw the speech as a blip in an otherwise insulting and harsh first year in office for Trump.
“Puerto Rico is a metaphor for how this President sees all Latinos and people of color: he does not see us as his equals and he does not see us as fellow human beings,” Gutiérrez said.
“If you look at how the President has treated Puerto Rico, you have to conclude that he just doesn’t care and probably thinks of Puerto Rico as just another shithole country,” the congressman continued.