Institute of Politics

Luis Gutiérrez

Former U.S. Representative from Illinois

  • Fall 2022 Pritzker Fellow

  • Seminar Series: "From the Barrio to Capitol Hill"


Former Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez is the founder and President of Our Nation’s Future. In 1992, Congressman Gutiérrez was the first Latino in the Midwest elected to serve as a member of the Illinois delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives. During his 26 years in Congress, he was characterized as an experienced legislator and energetic spokesman on behalf of his constituents in Illinois’ Fourth District and, more notably, as the nation’s most trusted leader on the issue of immigration. Of Puerto Rican descent, he is a supporter of Puerto Rican independence and helped lead the charge to remove the U.S. Navy from the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. Gutiérrez is also an outspoken advocate of workers' rights, LGBT rights, gender equality and other liberal and progressive causes. In 2010, Frank Sharry of America's Voice, an immigration reform advocacy group, said of Gutiérrez, "He's as close as the Latino community has to a Martin Luther King figure." His supporters have given him the nickname El Gallito - the little fighting rooster - in reference to his fiery oratory and political prowess.

In 1983, Gutiérrez left his job working for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to run for Democratic Committeeman for Chicago’s 32nd ward against a longtime incumbent. Though Gutiérrez lost the election, it did not stop him from continuing the fight for working-class Chicagoans.

In 1984, Harold Washington, Chicago’s first African American Mayor, appointed Gutiérrez to his administration, recognizing his ability to build coalitions between Chicago’s working-class residents.

As alderman, Gutiérrez always pushed progressive and liberal agendas. He was a strong advocate for local economic development and the construction of affordable housing. Gutiérrez was a key figure in passing the 1986 gay rights ordinance, which sought to ban discrimination based upon gender & sexual orientation.

In 1992, Gutiérrez was elected to the United State House of Representatives for Illinois’ 4th Congressional District. As Congressman, Gutiérrez was known for his passion and dedication to immigration reform. He was nationally recognized for his tireless leadership in championing issues of particular importance to Latino and immigrant communities. He has been at the center of every major legislative debate on immigration reform and immigration issues for more than two decades.

Congressman Gutierrez played an instrumental role in advocating for executive action by President Obama to provide deportation relief to certain long-term undocumented immigrants and their families. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects some immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation - and a series of executive actions announced in 2014 - are the result of Congressman Gutiérrez’s consistent and persistent advocacy in Washington. Beyond advocating for these initiatives, the Congressman has worked hard in Chicago and around the country to work with immigrants to apply for these deportation protections that keep families together.

Today, Gutiérrez is focused on continuing his fight for working-class Americans across the country. Though he is no longer in office, the fight for economic, social, racial, and immigrant justice is far from over. As a Latino man raised in a working-class family, he remains determined to continue to fight for all Americans.


"From the Barrio to Capitol Hill"

In a career that has taken me from the Barrio to Capitol Hill, from working as a Chicago cab driver to Chicago City Councilman to U.S. Congressman, I have always fought for civil rights. In these seminars, we will explore various aspects of that fight, through stories and examples from my journey of learning about and building power for workers, or the Latino community, for the marginalized. We will look at coalition-building, at the strange bedfellows of politics - when to compromise and when to speak truth to power. We will analyze how policy is made, and we will discuss lessons learned along the way from both successes and failures. And we will explore the roots of today’s progressive movement through my lived experience in the Civil Rights movement of the 60s and into the 70s. And at the center of it all is my life’s work to move the needle on immigration reform, since I believe immigration rights are civil rights - and we will talk about the work still ahead.

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