Transcript

Immigration Battle

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A FILM BY

SHARI ROBERTSON
MICHAEL CAMERINI

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ (D), Illinois: [in his offices] Can I have some butter? But I’m just going to— butter, yeah. It’s probably a good way. I was going to have some bread, but then things stopped me from having a piece of bread.

Are you ready? OK, let’s go.

SHARI ROBERTSON, Filmmaker: [voice-over] If you try to make a documentary in Washington, you can find yourself filming events without any clear idea of what’s going to happen. We’re following a congressman into a press conference an advocacy group has organized.

GROUP ORGANIZER: Luis, if it’s OK with you, could we have a few of the stories come forward?

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: I would love— number one, thank you. Thank you for coming. I was really looking forward to meeting all of you. Gracias por venir. Why can’t we take— [subtitles] Why don’t we take some of the kids and hear their testimony.

Come on.

GIRL: My dad, he’s a U.S. citizen. My— all my brothers and sisters are U.S. citizens, too, but my mom. Now they want to take my mom away. She just— she’s not a criminal.

BOY: Oh, I just think it’s unfair to our family to suffer this way. How about— I’m going to tell this to the president. What if one day Immigration came to his house, took his wife? How would he feel? How would his kids feel? They are no one to take our families apart. [applause]

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: We’ll just do the best we can today because I know that we’re all very affected by the testimony of the children and their parents today. And Ariana, you wrote this to me? You want to read it, or you want me to me read it?

ARIANA: You.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: You want me to read it? It says, “I’m Ariana Vivas and I’m 9 years old. I wish my dad is here because I want to hug him and kiss him. Father’s Day is coming, and my dad is not here so I could not give him a card. I need my dad so we can go to the park”— [both weeping] “back where we used to go before and celebrate birthdays. We need immigration reform now keep our families together.” [applause]

[whispering to Ariana] Support your mom, OK?

It is so difficult to, day in and day out, hear these incredibly painful stories of the destructive nature of our broken immigration system. Today, they’re going to deport 1,400 people, and we’re going to leave 200 to 300 American citizen children without a— American citizen children without a mom or a dad.

And it goes and it doesn’t stop. And the Congress talks and talks and talks and talks, but doesn’t act. I’m going to continue to work with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to bring about comprehensive immigration reform. [applause]

And I want to be absolutely clear with everybody here. I got to figure out a way to get 218 votes so that we don’t continue doing the kind of damage and the destruction that we’ve heard from the children.

[excerpt from “Last Best Chance”]

Sen. EDWARD M. KENNEDY (D), Massachusetts: Mr. President, we are called today by the ancients, the founders of the republic. Are we really going to form a more perfect union? Immigration reforms are always controversial. Our Congress was created to muster political will to answer such challenges. Today we didn’t, but tomorrow we will. I yield the floor.

MICHAEL CAMERINI, Filmmaker: [voice-over] That’s how our last film ended, with the collapse of an immigration bill in 2007. Eight years is a lifetime in American politics. Names are made, and disappear. That bill turned out to be Senator Kennedy’s last fight on the Senate floor, the end of an era, one we’d been making movies about since before 9/11.

The end of an era, the beginning of a polarization that would come to define Congress, but in no way the end of the national fight over immigration.

SHARI ROBERTSON: We left Washington. We never meant to go back there— until, well, pretty much the day after Obama was reelected. The big conclusion was that the Latino and immigrant vote made his win possible.

April 2013

NEWSCASTER: They’ve come from all over the country, thousands flocking to the once more—

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: It was your communities that returned Barack Obama to the White House! [cheers] We delivered the vote that delivered the states like Nevada, Colorado, Nuevo Mexico and Florida to the Democrats, and these votes came with a great deal of hope and trust. [cheers and applause]

The time is?

CROWD: Now!

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: The time is?

CROWD: Now!

SHARI ROBERTSON: Republican Party leaders were saying “The time is now,” too. They saw that their party’s survival might depend on fixing its image with the growing number of Latino and immigrant voters. So finally, the stars seemed to have aligned for Republicans and Democrats in Congress together to fix the country’s broken immigration system.

MICHAEL CAMERINI: By May, things are moving. In seven weeks, the Democratic-majority Senate marks up and passes historic bipartisan immigration legislation with the toughest enforcement provisions ever put in a Senate bill, and most controversially, a new, a clear path to citizenship for almost all of the 11 million undocumented.

Vice Pres. JOE BIDEN: The yeas on this bill are 68, the nays are 32. The bill, as amended, is passed.

MICHAEL CAMERINI: That’s the starting gun. Now the House has to pass its version of an immigration bill. If the House fails, the Senate bill expires with this session of Congress and the next Congress has to start all over. So they’ve only got what’s left of the two-year life of this session of Congress, and it’s already July.

July 2013

SHARI ROBERTSON: So from here, what matters is all in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Everyone’s expecting historic legislation. And we decided to see what would happen.

We started walking those very long hallways of Cannon and Longworth and Rayburn. A lot of things had changed since we filmed here before— more bloggers, more reporters, more secrecy. Lots of doors didn’t open, but we started.

MARIELENA HINCAPIÉ, NILC: The need for immigration reform is urgent, and any attempt by the House to stall on this important priority for voters will be watched closely, especially by voters from immigrant, Latino and Asian-American communities, who marched to the polls last year in support of Congress’s immigration reform.”

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ (on-camera): Oh, they missed the Chamber of Commerce. That would have been good [unintelligible] difficult group of people.

DOUG RIVLIN, Communications Director, Congressman Gutiérrez: [handing him the phone] OK, you’re on mute. I’m going to tell them that you’re on.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: I don’t even know what I’m—

DOUG RIVLIN: So here’s what we’re doing. Everything you’ve been saying today is great. Marielena Hincapié from NILC is speaking now. She’s moderating. So you can chill out for a minute.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: But then I can hang up after I finish?

DOUG RIVLIN: So— hold on. Hold on. Let me go through it.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: I’m hungry.

DOUG RIVLIN: I know you’re hungry. Can we get him something to eat maybe? I would love for you to stay for Q&A. The reporters all want to ask you questions.

SHARI ROBERTSON: This is the office of Luis V. Gutiérrez, Democratic congressman from Illinois.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: [on the phone] I believe the American people have already—

SHARI ROBERTSON: What we’d been looking for was the story of how House Republicans were going to fix immigration. They hold the majority in the House. And we were kind of surprised ourselves, but it turned out Luis Gutiérrez was a Democrat, right in the middle of that Republican story.

ALICE LUGO, Immigration Counsel, Congressman Gutiérrez: It’s just the hard metric that— that’s worrisome.

MICHAEL CAMERINI: Behind closed doors, there’s an ongoing negotiation on immigration here in the House. He’s part of it.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: It’s not worth it. It’s not worth it.

MICHAEL CAMERINI: It’s bipartisan, and it’s called the Group of 8. But right now, things are getting difficult.

ALICE LUGO: So I think, if possible, boss, it might be worth a one-on-one conversation with Judge Carter before the bipartisan— just to see how much room, because I think there might be some room with him, and if we can move him—

SUSAN COLLINS, Chief of Staff, Congressman GutiÉrrez: Just to say “What the hell?”

MICHAEL CAMERINI: A few months ago, the Group of 8 was completely secret. Staff and members trusted each other.

CESAR GONZALEZ, Chief of Staff, Congressman Mario Díaz-Balart, (R) Florida: Because so much had never leaked— like, there was no leaks— they knew that what they were saying in that room wouldn’t leak, and so they would be— they were able to be extremely honest, like, “This is where I can go, this is where I can’t go, this what I can do, this is what I think needs to be done.” You know, it was in our interest to keep it kind of very, very quiet. It gave us room to work.

MICHAEL CAMERINI: Now they don’t have that room to work. This year, the Group of 8 couldn’t remain a secret. There are reporters everywhere. Behind that door, they’re meeting, and there’s a growing suspicion Democratic leadership wants to shut it down.

But as of today, the Group of 8 is still negotiating and trying to put on a brave face.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: [to reporter] The next step has to be the necessary step. It’s always to put the immigrant community and the civil rights movement ahead of partisan politics.

REPORTER: And then practically, that means what? What does that mean?

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: That means that we’re going to continue—

[to staffers] Got it. We kept it going. Lord knows this is— you know, I know the president won’t be happy when he reads the— that we’re continuing to work.

SHARI ROBERTSON: We were surprised that the Group of 8’s big problem was coming from Democrats. But party leaders and the White House had decided that any bill from a Republican House would be too far right.

MICHAEL CAMERINI: To Republicans, Democrats’ efforts to slow down the negotiations feel like politics, not policy. The Group of 8 becomes 7, then fizzles out. For some Democrats, that’s good. They want the House to have no choice but to call a vote on the Senate bill, with its more generous path to citizenship. And that’s what advocates want, too.

[hallway conversation]

FRANK SHARRY, President, America’s Voice: People engage in some straight talk.

CRISTINA JIMÉNEZ, Managing Director, United We Dream: It’s a moral stand for us.

FRANK SHARRY: Of course!

CRISTINA JIMÉNEZ: How can we say we’re OK with us getting citizenship and we’re going to say, “Go ahead, deport our parents”?

FRANK SHARRY: Exactly. You can just say, you know, “Here’s why we decided”—

CRISTINA JIMÉNEZ: I really just want to focus on, like, the morality of this.

SHARI ROBERTSON: They call themselves Dreamers, these young people who were brought to the United States as children, grew up here and graduated from high school like everybody else, but all without legal papers. The name Dreamer comes from the DREAM Act, a law that never passed in Congress, but would have given them legal status.

[to Dreamers group]

CRISTINA JIMÉNEZ: So as we here, and as we move into the House of Representatives in this fight for immigration reform—

SHARI ROBERTSON: Now they’re trying to be a political movement, lobbying for legislation on equal footing with Washington insiders like Frank Sharry, who’s been a leading voice among the advocates for longer than we’ve been filming in Washington.

FRANK SHARRY: Now, after an election in which Republicans have been spanked by Latino, Asian and immigrant voters, they’re saying, “We’ve got to do something.” That’s what Speaker Boehner said, “Inaction is not an option.” So let’s do something.

Well, here’s my suggestion. The Senate passed an important but imperfect bill on a bipartisan basis that has an inclusive path to— initial legal status and an eventual and achievable path to citizenship. Right now, in the House of Representatives, there are more than 218 votes for a similar bill. It’s, like, Give us a vote, dudes! [laughter]

[Speaker’s weekly press conference]

Rep. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), Speaker of the House: Our economy continues to struggle with slow economic growth, high unemployment and stagnant wages. “Obama care’s” raising costs. That’s making it harder for small businesses to hire. In short, it’s a train wreck. And even the administration—

MICHAEL CAMERINI: It’s like a ritual. He starts every Thursday press conference this way, a quick weekly rundown of the Obama administration’s failures. Then the reporters change the subject.

Rep. JOHN BOEHNER: With that, I’ll take your questions.

1st REPORTER: Why— [crosstalk] [laughter]

2nd REPORTER: Thought you were going to go to Luke.

Rep. JOHN BOEHNER: Go right ahead. Ladies first.

1st REPORTER: Thank you. [crosstalk]

Rep. JOHN BOEHNER: No, no. Ladies first. Ladies first. [laughter] Remember, it doesn’t cost anything to be nice. [laughter]

1st REPORTER: Why should— why should House Republicans be in favor of immigration reform that is— that possibly includes legalization or citizenship or illegal immigrants currently here, when the argument on the Senate side and among governors is it’s in their political interests, but in the House just— I mean 75 percent of the House—

Rep. JOHN BOEHNER: We have a broken—

1st REPORTER: —75 percent of the House Republican districts are majority white. The majority—

Rep. JOHN BOEHNER: We have a broken immigration system. We’ve got a broken system that needs to be fixed, and I—

SHARI ROBERTSON: Her question is about the truth that’s dawning on pretty much everybody— 75 percent of House Republicans don’t have to worry about Latino and immigrant voters. Everybody knows John Boehner wants to do an immigration bill. Nobody can figure out how he’ll be able to.

2nd REPORTER: Speaker Boehner, it’s well known you guys got your rear-ends handed to you in the Latino community in the 2012 election. What does it say to the Latino community that the House GOP is stopping this pathway to citizenship after the Chamber of Commerce, the RNC, many other Republican groups have said it’s time to get this issue behind us. It’s time to modernize?

Do you not risk putting the Republicans at a disadvantage with the fastest growing electoral voting group for another generation?

Rep. JOHN BOEHNER: Well, I didn’t know this was an opinion show here. [laughter] Now, I’m catching my breath. We are not going to do the Senate bill. I have said this—

MICHAEL CAMERINI: Here’s why he just said that. He can’t do the Senate bill. For his Republican caucus, it’s too identified with President Obama and the Democratic Senate. Even though he and the president talk regularly about immigration — it’s a goal they share — what he needs is a House immigration bill the majority of his Republicans can claim as their own.

But he’s not going to get every Republican vote, so to actually pass a bill on the House floor, John Boehner is going to need some help from Democrats.

Culinary Workers Union

Las Vegas, Nevada

[backstage at rally]

Sen. HARRY REID (D-NV), Majority Leader: Look at these shirts. They’re very similar, don’t they look.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Yeah, they are. [laughs]

Sen. HARRY REID: Nice shirts.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: What do you think, blue suits, black shoes? We got the memo.

CROWD: Harry! Harry! Harry! [cheers and applause]

MAN IN CROWD: Give ‘em hell, Harry! Give ‘em hell!

Sen. HARRY REID: Ladies and Gentleman, Luis Gutiérrez. [cheers]

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: We need to say to them, “Bien venido America. Esta es tu opportunidad!” [cheers and applause]

And so my commitment to you is to work tirelessly. We have a bipartisan approach. I’ve learned from the leader in the U.S. Senate. We’re working.

You know, Senator, Paul Ryan— Paul Ryan said to me— pretty conservative guy, huh? Well, I think he needs to understand how critical this all is. He didn’t see me in the gym two weeks after the election and say, “God, you did everything you could, Luis, to stop me from being vice president.”

That’s not what he said to me. You know what he said to me? He said, “You’re a Catholic. I’m a Catholic. We cannot have a permanent underclass of Americans exploited in America!” [cheers and applause]

And so all we’re saying is there are men and women in the Republican Party, there are men and women in the Democratic Party— I ask and implore the speaker of the House, let those men and women speak and bring justice to our immigrant community!

[subtitles] [to reporter] If they insist on not allowing a vote, then our community will have to raise its voice.

MICHAEL CAMERINI: Maybe you’ve never heard of him, but in Spanish media, Luis Gutiérrez is the best-known Latino politician in the United States.

SHARI ROBERTSON: The thing about Luis is he’s a kid who was born in Chicago and only spoke English until he was about 13, when his parents decided to move back to the interior of Puerto Rico. So there he was, a foreigner, in a tiny little mountain village who couldn’t get a date because his Spanish was so terrible.

He struggled for four years, until his high school realized he was their ace in the national English competition. He won hands down, and that was his big start.

He came back to the U.S. for college, worked as a taxi driver, and finally got into politics in Chicago only after his house was fire-bombed because he’d been protesting corruption.

MICHAEL CAMERINI: We’d known the congressman since our last time in Washington, but he’s a lot more famous now. He makes his own political party nervous. He’s made it clear he’s more loyal to immigrants than he is to Democrats.

SHARI ROBERTSON: To Republicans who want to do immigration reform, he’s the Democrat they trust. One of those Republicans is Trey Gowdy, ex-prosecutor, Tea Party darling, the Republican Chair of the House Immigration Subcommittee.

Rep. TREY GOWDY (R), South Carolina: Mr. Chairman, real, sustainable immigration reform has proven elusive to prior Congresses, and there’s an emerging consensus within this Congress that the current system is broken, and enforcing the law strikes me as a reasonable place to begin.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: [to chief of staff] You could leave that there, if you want.

There’s going to be a legalization component, and Gowdy said for those who arrived as children— I mean, if you listen to them, they’re obviously talking about other components of a legalization program.

I mean, this is a different place. They’re not saying, “This is all we’re”— they went from the party of “We’re for enforcement only,” to “Oh, don’t worry, we’re getting around to the other part.” In other words, there’s good stuff coming.

SHARI ROBERTSON: It’s been weeks since the Senate passed its bill, but no bill has even been introduced in the House. With the clock ticking, he’s looking for any sign that Republicans will be open to writing a Republican bill he can support.

His best bet is another member of the original Group of 8, a conservative Cuban-American from Florida, Mario Díaz-Balart, who’s also frustrated by the failure of the group.

[with visitors]

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART (R), Florida: [subtitles] This isn’t just lip service here because you’ve heard empty talk for years, many broken promises, promises to stop deportations, “We’ll have it done in 12 months,” many broken promises, right?

WOMAN: [subtitles] Many disappointments.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: [subtitles] And meanwhile, the separation of families. So what we have to find is this magic formula that can win the majority of the majority so we can bring it to the House floor, but with a substantial group of Democrats so it can pass in the House, it can be negotiated and pass into law.

MICHAEL CAMERINI: To move forward now, Díaz-Balart and Cesar Gonzalez, his chief of staff, are going to have to start over. And they’re going to need an ally. That person is Paul Ryan, chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee.

Gutiérrez knows Ryan well enough to ask him to take the lead in writing a Republican immigration bill. We were hoping to film with him, too, but Ryan’s office wanted to stay under the radar.

September 2013

FRANK SHARRY, America’s Voice: We’re worried that the clock’s going to run out or we’re going to end up in a fizzled blame game. Now, we all— we’ve been big supporters of the Group of 7, Group of 8—

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Right.

FRANK SHARRY: Like, let’s do it. I have to say at this point, we’re worried.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Well, it’s not going anywhere. I’ve already thought, you know, the Group of 7 wasn’t going to go very far.

So once I saw it falling apart, I’ve continued to keep my— I always kept a door open between the Group of 7, Paul Ryan and— and— so I said— so my last conversation with him was very clear. I said, “Paul, you’ve got to put together a proposal. Now, here’s a group of things that are my must-have’s. You got to put the group together, and you got to do this.”

FRANK SHARRY: Awesome.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: And he’s— they’re doing it. I gave them enough hope within a framework that, “If you do these things, I can be your partner. So go do it.”

SHARI ROBERTSON: What he wants is legalization for everybody with a clean record and no prohibition on regular ways of reaching citizenship.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: People know that Paul Ryan and I talk, and everybody’s going to know. There are no secrets in this place.

FRANK SHARRY: Right.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: And they’re going to know eventually, “Well, they’ve always been talking, but here are things.” And the one who gave me the must-haves is Trey Gowdy. Trey Gowdy’s hilarious. He goes, “Well, you know, I’m not your lawyer, but if I were your lawyer, given that you’re negotiating with us”— [laughter]

FRANK SHARRY: Uh-huh.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: “Of course you should give us a list of must-haves.” So I said, “Thanks a lot, Trey.” I thought that was very important. You know, “What are your principles? What are things that you must have?” It’s not the Senate version. It’s a different architecture. We think we can.

Now, that leaves the Republicans in a place where they’re in charge, where you respect that they’re the majority in the House of Representatives, but you’re also respectful to your principles.

FRANK SHARRY: Right.

DOUG RIVLIN: We got CNN in a few minutes.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Let’s figure it out. All right? Keep working it out.

CESAR GONZALEZ Chief of Staff, Congressman Mario Díaz-Balart: We know what they need and we know how much of a push we can get on the Democratic side. And I know at the end of the day, I’ve got to have Mr. Gutiérrez there.

So we have to move— I got to move him as much to the right, and then our guys, move them as much to the left as, you know, I can, so we can get a number of Democrats who actually want to deal with this issue and actually want to find a solution and then with— have them get to a point were they’re acceptable with this Republican version.

[meeting with staffers]

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: I’ll be sticking— tell them I’m going to be sticking around to march. I’m not staying for the details.

STAFFER: So you want to be at the top of the first program, stay for the march.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: We’ll be there for the program. We’ll march. What else, guys?

SUSAN COLLINS, Chief of Staff, Congressman Gutiérrez: Can we talk a little bit about the state of affairs with the secret group, what Ryan is in the center of, right, figuring out how real that might be this fall?

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: What we do with Ryan is he puts together a bunch of bills, one of which is legalization, and that’s the one we join him on. The legalization is good enough that I can go and say we need to get in bed.

ALICE LUGO, Immigration Counsel, Congressman Gutiérrez: How did the last conversation go with him?

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Went well. He says they’re continuing to work. And Mario, apparently, is continuing to work. He said he feels sad that they’re canceling their meeting tonight.

DOUG RIVLIN, Communications Director, Congressman Gutiérrez: Yeah, I think Ryan’s scheduler called here because she didn’t realize that you weren’t part of those—

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Part of those.

SUSAN COLLINS: They’re, like, “Oops, sorry.” Wishful thinking, but—

DOUG RIVLIN: We’ve got to show some motion by you, and we can’t be seen as, “No, no, wait. We’re going to do a bipartisan bill. Just wait another couple of months,” right? That— that no longer works.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: I mean, you know, there is this kind of sense in the immigrant community, you know, first we were going to do immigration reform, but then 9/11 happened. And then we were going to do it, but then—

STAFFER: There’s always an excuse.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: There’s always something. And then the fiscal crisis—

MICHAEL CAMERINI: What they’re worried about is Latino and immigrant activists are getting impatient. On the outside, it looks like nothing is happening. The Congressman is going to keep encouraging Republicans on the inside while trying to lead the movement on the outside.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: There comes a point at which people are going to say “What the (expletive deleted)!”

[Capitol demonstration]

SPEAKER: What do we want?

DEMONSTRATORS: Immigration reform!

SPEAKER: When do we want it?

DEMONSTRATORS: Now!

SPEAKER: What do we want?

DEMONSTRATORS: Immigration reform!

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: [subtitles] Nothing happens here in this building, in the House of Representatives, if there’s no demand from outside the Capitol

POLICE OFFICER: Everybody, if you’re on that side, you’re subject to arrest!

MICHAEL CAMERINI: In Washington and around the country, advocates try to keep the pressure on.

Las Cruces, New Mexico

PRIEST: What we need is for some bill to be passed in the House! [applause]

DEMONSTRATORS: [singing] The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind, the answer is—

DEMONSTRATORS: No papers. No fear! No papers! No fear!

MICHAEL CAMERINI: It’s a campaign of confrontation and civil disobedience. Congressman John Lewis and other Civil Rights leaders join Gutiérrez.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Let’s all stand together right here. John, right here. Let’s all stand together. Right here. Right here.

[floor speech] I don’t think it is news to my friends on the Republican side of the aisle that you don’t win every battle around here. The place is tough, and occasionally, you get knocked down.

MICHAEL CAMERINI: On October 1st, Congress shuts down the federal government in a fight with the president over “Obama care.” In the end, Republicans lose, and they’re furious with the president.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: [floor speech] Those on the other side of the aisle say they don’t trust the president, can’t work with him. Well, OK, fine, then work with your colleagues on this side of the aisle. You know, there are 435 of us. We need 218 votes to pass a bill, and the president doesn’t get a vote!

[to communications director] Do I have the talking points?

ALICE LUGO Immigration Counsel, Congressman Gutiérrez: I have your folder.

DOUG RIVLIN, Communications Director, Congressman Gutiérrez: She has the folder for you.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: OK. All right. Don’t get nervous, Doug.

DOUG RIVLIN: I’m not nervous.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: We’re OK.

DOUG RIVLIN: We’re winning.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: We’re winning. We gave a good speech this morning. I don’t know if anybody’s going to hear it, but we gave a good speech.

DOUG RIVLIN: We sent it to everybody.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Good.

DOUG RIVLIN: So the line that we took out that I want to put in the next one—

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Uh-huh.

DOUG RIVLIN: —is about how you feel like you have to kind of sneak around to have dinner with these guys.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: I like it! I like it. Why is it? When I had friends in high school, they were my friends.

DOUG RIVLIN: “Unlike some of you [expletive deleted] I don’t mess around with my wife, so— but let me tell you— right? I feel like I’m sneaking around right on my party”—

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Why?

DOUG RIVLIN: —“when I have dinner with you guys.”

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Right. Why is it? Now, I get it. We can’t tell people. That’s OK. Maybe that’s the way this has got to get done. But if those are the rules, those are the rules. Call me anyway.

Wow! I got to go in.

REPORTER: [subtitles] No, look— Congressman, look at just the cameras and simply repeat in Spanish what you said on the House floor. Look into the cameras, don’t look at us.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: [subtitles] It seems to me there are 435 members of the House of Representatives. The president doesn’t get a vote—

[with staff]

It’s like the war. You know these guys love to pull the trigger on a war except if it’s Obama’s war. If it’s Obama’s, no.

STAFFER: Exactly!

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: I said— I mean, the greatest laugh I always get is, if darkness, right, just overwhelms the Earth one day and Obama had the key to light, he says, “I have a bill that will bring sunlight,” they’d rather live in darkness than have him bring the light. [laughter] It’s just they— they’re so anti-Obama!

November 2013

SEIU Lobby Day

Washington, D.C.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: We won that election. Everybody remember the pundits on election night? It was like they woke up from this stupor, right? [laughter] Right? They were all, like, “All these Latinos voting! [laughter] “Where’d they all come from,” right? But right, it was like election, “Really? Oh.” [applause]

So today, you’re going to go challenge the Congress of the United States to get off its butt and do its work. I’m going to be here until the bitter end in this fight with you. Thank you so much for having me tonight. [cheers and applause]

SHARI ROBERTSON: It’s six weeks after the shutdown, and nothing’s happened with immigration. Luis Gutiérrez hasn’t heard anything from Ryan or Díaz-Balart.

DOUG RIVLIN: So that was real good.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Thank you. That was really hard.

SUSAN COLLINS: That was hard?

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Yeah!

DOUG RIVLIN: Why?

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: This is just—

DOUG RIVLIN: Being up?

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Yeah, being up. It’s hard! Just, like, “What the [expletive deleted]?”

DOUG RIVLIN: Congressman, you’re their hope pill.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: I know. I got to figure out something new. What’s new? What can we do new? What can we do different? What— how do we force them to give us a vote? How do we force them?

Capitol Hill Neighborhood

Washington, D.C.

SHARI ROBERTSON: It’s gotten late in the year, almost Thanksgiving. The White House has given up on pushing the Senate bill. But deportations continue, more than a thousand a day. For advocates like the Dreamers, there’s a growing desperation. Their strategy is still keep putting pressure on the Republicans, especially Speaker Boehner. At 5:30 this morning, we’re with them outside his house.

DREAMER: We welcome you all to this peaceful demonstration in which we highlight the needs of our communities and honor those families who will have an empty chair at Thanksgiving table this year.

In 2001, my mother and I sacrificed everything we knew and arrived in Atlanta, Georgia. Eleven million people in this country find themselves in a similar situation. But due to our broken immigration system, their American dream has turned into a nightmare.

Speaker Boehner, your party, and specifically your caucus in the House of Representatives, has the chance to stand on the right side of history by making dignity and family unity a cornerstone of our immigration system. The right choice is to recognize us as Americans by providing us a pathway to citizenship—

NEIGHBOR: Excuse me, but this is a residential neighborhood! [crosstalk] And I don’t particularly like being woken up in the middle of night by you people!

DREAMER: —and the fibers of this country.

NEIGHBOR: Go home!

DREAMER: Many say that immigration reform is dead! We know that this is not true!

Hall of Flags, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Washington, D.C.

MICHAEL CAMERINI: Republicans in the influential U.S. Chamber of Commerce haven’t given up on immigration reform yet, either. They’ve partnered with a group called Bibles Badges and Business to bring hundreds of pastors, sheriffs and business people from all over the country to Washington. This morning, the visitors are learning how to lobby from Washington professionals.

MAN: Lookit, it’s one— it’s truly one of my pleasures to introduce Rebecca Tallent, who— to belie her youthful good looks, she’s one of the old warhorses on immigration, some of these immigration battles. So with that, Rebecca, I’ll turn it over to you. And thanks for all your work on this and moving the ball forward.

BECKY TALLENT, Director, Immigration Task Force, Bipartisan Policy Center: Thank you, Randy. Republicans, I speak from experience, love facts and persuasive arguments—

SHARI ROBERTSON: We’ve known Becky Tallent since even before she was Senator McCain’s immigration negotiator in 2006 and 2007. She’s an expert on immigration legislation, and these days, a key strategist on how to get a Republican bill through the House.

Offices of Governor Haley Barbour

Co-Chair, Immigration Task Force

BECKY TALLENT: We’re in a very different place today than we were when we started talking about this in April, especially because everybody thought a bill would— you know, especially folks on the left thought a bill would be signed into law by August.

I think the advocates have struggled a little bit also communicating with the House Republicans. It’s that they’re not trying to sell them on the policy. I think there’s good policy to sell them on, if you know how to do it. Obviously, there’s good policy to sell them on.

Gov. HALEY BARBOUR (R-MI), Co-Chair, Immigration Task Force: No question. And there’s reality.

BECKY TALLENT: Well— [laughs]

Gov. HALEY BARBOUR: Are you going to— are you going to tell the people the truth? We’re not sending 12 million people anywhere. How do we get a law passed? I got to meet with Ryan—

BECKY TALLENT: Thursday.

Gov. HALEY BARBOUR: —this week. I’m trying to get where I can give him good advice. And my good advice is the Democrats have convinced themselves if the bill doesn’t have a pathway to citizenship, the world’s going to come to an end.

BECKY TALLENT: Right.

Gov. HALEY BARBOUR: There’ll be a revolution.

BECKY TALLENT: There’s space on that. I think that if you said legal status for everyone, path to citizenship maybe for the kids— I think it’s— I think you could sell that to two thirds of the House— the House Republican Caucus. And I think that at the end of the day, the less radical, left-leaning advocates would say exactly what you said.

REPORTER: Speaker Boehner, a few blocks away from here, there’s some families that are doing Fast for Families, about immigration reform. As we speak right now, there’s some children of immigrants who are protesting in members’ offices.

Rep. JOHN BOEHNER: And I have talked for 13 months, since the day after the last presidential election, about the need for Congress to tackle this very important issue. I’ve been committed to it. I’m still committed to it. I’ve also made clear that—

SHARI ROBERTSON: Becky always told us John Boehner’s a true believer in immigration reform.

REBECCA TALLENT: But you know, you’re going to get the other 30 to 40 that aren’t necessarily his caucus to vote for something like—

SHARI ROBERTSON: Well, John Boehner didn’t get it done this year. But as December begins, there’s still another year left in this Congress, and Speaker Boehner has just hired Becky Tallent. Everyone we know in Washington sees it as a sign he’s serious about passing an immigration bill now. So we won’t be able to film with Becky anymore for a while.

MICHAEL CAMERINI: But we know this. The speaker’s asked Becky to draft a simple set of Republican principles, simple enough to unify the caucus. And he tells Paul Ryan and Mario Díaz-Balart to start a whip count, to start lining up commitments for their future bill.

SHARI ROBERTSON: They’ve just let Luis Gutiérrez know their plans.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: OK, close the door. They’re moving forward. They’re not giving up. Today, they’re saying, “What [unintelligible] next week? And here’s what we’re doing. And they’re working on getting 117 votes. That’s what they’re working on. Don’t tell me. Have people been saying I’m crazy, because I’m saying that we just need to legalize people?

DOUG RIVLIN, Communications Director, Congressman Gutiérrez: No, no. They’re not saying you’re crazy because of that.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: OK.

DOUG RIVLIN: They’re saying you’re crazy for still having hope that something’s going to get done.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Well, but that’s my job. That’s part of the job. I can’t have this job if I don’t do that. I’d have to quit.

DOUG RIVLIN: I understand. And I’m— my job is to convince cynical-ass reporters that they’re being too cynical.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Right. That they’re just like— what the hell? What are they going to do? A lady told me, [subtitles] “Don’t you— do not give up.” [in English] They come at me everywhere I go, Don’t you dare give up!” [subtitles] “That’s all we have.”

SUSAN COLLINS, Chief of Staff, Congressman Gutiérrez: Don’t give up.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: You don’t think people understand that out there? They’re hearing it. They ain’t hearing anybody give them some good news, but they go, “Well, at least that Gutiérrez still says there’s some.”

DOUG RIVLIN: Yeah.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: And if you’re them, you’re, like, going, “OK, listen to him.”

January 2014

SHARI ROBERTSON: The legislation the Republicans are working on is tough, tougher than the Senate bill, with more punishment and more enforcement. But for Luis Gutiérrez, ending the deportations is more important than a perfect deal that he believes is never going to happen.

MICHAEL CAMERINI: Democratic leadership worries Gutéirrez will convince other Democrats to sign onto a bad deal and let Republicans score a political win with immigrants. Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has called Gutiérrez to meet with her tomorrow.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: [brandishing wooden mallet] This is the the— the fake— the fake gavel. The base of the Democratic caucus, they’re with me!

DOUG RIVLIN: Yes.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: They’re with me. Oh, yeah, they’re with me. See, I think half of it is just personal. Nancy Pelosi likes being in charge. And they want to be in charge. And this happens in all movements. People want to be in charge. They see it coming to the pinnacle of success, and now they want to be in charge.

And I’m going to tell Nancy Pelosi Wednesday morning, I say, “Know what, Nancy? Don’t tell me what it is people want. I have a funny feeling I know better than anybody in this [expletive deleted] room what people want because I’ve been doing this for a year.” I didn’t wake up Johnny-come-lately at the end and say, “Oh, I left the Judiciary Committee 15 years ago, but now this is an important issue to me.”

DOUG RIVLIN: That’s precisely what they’re worried about.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: But they need to be worried. The only way they’re going is they have to be worried! And I’m going to tell them, “Do not think that I will not spend every last ounce of my energy and my voice to make sure that you gain absolutely nothing if you scuttle this issue.”

I will travel around this country and tell people, “You going to vote for a Democrat, vote for them for the minimum wage, don’t vote for them because of immigration because they’re undeserving.” I can do that in your district. I can do that in any district in this country. You make people the enemy, depending on your tone.

DOUG RIVLIN: Yes.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: I think we have to begin to lay it out. Ain’t nobody fell in love with [expletive deleted] immigrants yesterday and decide we’re all going to get together, kumbaya, OK? You and I both know that. Can you say that? You [expletive deleted] put them in— we have to put those [expletive deleted] in a box!

DOUG RIVLIN: Yeah, but you’re in a different place than I am because I think a lot of what we need to do right now is be a little bit more positive and little bit more encouraging of the Republicans, and not pointing to what could be schisms within the Democrats yet.

SUSAN COLLINS, Chief of Staff, Congressman Gutiérrez: I know I don’t— I mean, I know that we have a lot of bad blood to bury with the White House. But I actually think the White House is more with you now than they’ve been ever. I think the president really wants something, and he wants to give the Republicans the space to get it done.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Setting modesty aside, I’m the best friend he got to get the signature issues because those people, they’re— they’ll say, “Oh, we’re going to triangulate the president. We’re going to stand up for immigrants and against everything else and try to ride this one into the next election.” I know the president doesn’t want to do that.

The next day

DOUG RIVLIN: So OK, what really happened?

ALICE LUGO, Immigration Counsel, Congressman Gutiérrez: I thought it went pretty well, actually.

SUSAN COLLINS: I think he laid the case out in a way that was just impeccable.

DOUG RIVLIN: Good.

SUSAN COLLINS: I’m not saying no citizenship for anybody. I’m not talking about second class status forever, right? And I do— I mean, I kind of feel like it resonated with them, like they really didn’t appreciate what he’d been talking about.

ALICE LUGO: Right. He’s not crazy. She conceded to the boss, “You are getting citizenship for millions, so it’s not like you’re not getting— you’re giving up on citizenship.” He’s, like, “I never said I did give up on citizenship.” And so it was this—

MICHAEL CAMERINI: This January seems filled with tensions like that, as the whole town waits for the next big announcement from Boehner’s office on his immigration plans. Becky’s kept her group’s work completely secret. For people who want immigration reform, there are so many reasons to worry.

FRANK SHARRY, President, America’s Voice: Are these principles? Are they— I mean, you’re feeling pretty confident they’ll say, you know, no special path and legal status?

ALICE LUGO: They’re going to be unoffensive, general, short. So they’re pretty much a precursor to legislation, to what’s to come.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Here’s what I believe. We can all talk about what the Republicans can do and what they can’t do. The fact is that Democrats have no place to stand because they didn’t act when they had a majority, so they have—

FRANK SHARRY: I love it. Every time you say that, I swoon, every time you say that.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: They have no place to stand.

FRANK SHARRY: I love it.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: They now want— they now want the Republican majority to demand that their caucus and their leadership take up an issue which Democratic leadership wouldn’t take up— wouldn’t take up! You know, we have to make a change. So tell me where you want to go.

FRANK SHARRY: All right, so I’m worried about how do we manage the press narrative when the principles come out. And because we’ve been so successful, maybe too successful at framing reform as defined by a path to citizenship, it’s become the measure. We’ve got a big job ahead of us with progressives—

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Yeah, I agree with you.

FRANK SHARRY: —with Democrats. I even heard a rumor today that [expletive deleted] Harry Reid is, like, “We can’t give up on citizenship. No way, nohow.” Well, that’s just because he doesn’t know! You know what I mean? It’s, like— it’s like—

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Right.

FRANK SHARRY: —he’s gotten the sound bites down, but he doesn’t understand that the community is desperate! This non-negotiable [expletive deleted] has, like, got to go! So we got to win that argument. Now it’s legalization with some citizenship, versus legalization with a lot of citizenship.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Legalization for all!

FRANK SHARRY: This is what we want. Legalization for all, and citizenship— maybe it’s for most, maybe it’s for many, whatever that word is.

ALICE LUGO: I think your “citizenship for many” is key because even if you enter the legalization program, if you have a path, like, you marry a U.S. citizen, that’s your path. No special path with no special barriers.

FRANK SHARRY: Oh, I like that! There’s a path, it’s just there’s no special path.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: The president said, “I will always be for citizenship for all.” I said, “Well, that’s really nice while you deport two million people, but” —

FRANK SHARRY: Yeah. That— but that’s a good place for him to stand.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: But, so that’s what—

DOUG RIVLIN: But they can actually be helpful in this.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Yeah, but -

DOUG RIVLIN: And I think if he keeps saying citizenship for all, but with the understanding that that’s not what he’s going to get, that’s what gives the Republicans the ability to say, “Look, we’re not giving Obama what he wants.”

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: What he wants.

MICHAEL CAMERINI: All last year, the president insisted he can’t stop the deportations, only Congress can. He’s given John Boehner room to try to pass a bill at the cost of angering his Democratic base.

Today’s the day John Boehner starts. The annual Republican retreat will begin discussion on those principles that Becky’s written. They balance strong enforcement with new legal visas, but they also hold out hope for the undocumented that they can become right with the law.

FRANK SHARRY: [reading Twitter] Yeah, a lot of tweets. Boehner on GOP Conference on immigration. “These standards are as far as we are willing to go,” which, since they’re so vague means absolutely nothing! [laughs]

The evangelicals are happy. “The House GOP leaders’ immigration plan doesn’t rule out citizenship.” But gee, that’s— you would think that that would be kind of obvious, but it’s not! Tamar Jacoby called the principles “a historic breakthrough and a game changer.” Steny Hoyer, number two man in the House, “House Democrats are ready to do our part and work across the aisle.”

You know, look, it’s tough. People are getting screwed. You know, some day, they’ll be passing congressional resolutions apologizing to how many immigrant families have been ripped apart by the awful stuff we’ve done in the last 20 years.

And we’re not going to get a perfect bill, and more people are going to get hurt, but we have a chance to pass legislation. No, it’s not going to be perfect, but it’s going to transform immigrants here without papers, who are considered criminals by many, into human beings who are part of the family!

Oh! The Republican— “60/40 anti, but it’s loud versus thoughtful.”

MICHAEL CAMERINI: Even though many members were fine with the principles by the end of their discussion, the majority wasn’t ready to leap on immigration in a mid-term election year.

A week later, the speaker says it’s going to be hard to move forward and blames the president. The Ryan/Díaz-Balart whip count goes on hold.

February 2014

Rock Hill, South Carolina

SHARI ROBERTSON: We started filming in South Carolina around then, thinking that getting out of Washington would help us figure out why it’s so hard for House Republicans to do something about immigration.

[at local bar]

Rep. MICK MULVANEY (R), South Carolina: And you don’t get caught up in this Washington crap, or you turn into something different, you know? You’re still with the same people you were being when you were home anyway.

SHARI ROBERTSON: Mick Mulvaney got elected as part of the Tea Party wave in 2010. He went to Congress expecting to make a difference, to get things done.

GUY IN BAR: All you hear is how the Democrats are shooting themselves in the foot on all the issues! Just, I mean the— the time is fantastic for the Republicans. But yet Republicans are not doing anything to say, “What are we going to do about those issues that they’re— they’re screwing up?”

Rep. MICK MULVANEY: Here’s why we have that problem. And this is one of the reasons— I was one of the 14 members who did not vote for John Boehner for speaker. John Boehner got his job by doing nothing. John Boehner got his job in 2010 by being not Barack Obama. The pushback against “Obama care” and the bailouts and the stimulus was so strong that it brought the Republicans into power.

So here’s John Boehner thinking, “OK, well, I just didn’t do anything, and I won. There’s a business model I can understand.” John Boehner does it, and he tells you, “My job is to keep— you know, to keep the majority.” OK? That’s [expletive deleted]. His job is to make sure that the House runs and we pass stuff, right?

So can I say [expletive deleted] when y’all are taping? I hope y’all can edit that out, so— [laughter]

MICHAEL CAMERINI: His town hall events these days usually focus on questions about Benghazi or impeaching Obama, but a group of young local pastors asked him to talk about something else.

Rep. MICK MULVANEY: I said I want to have a presentation without saying that I’m pregnant or a felon because those are very— just easy things to screw up in Spanish, so— try hard not to say something stupid. [laugh]

[subtitles] I’m going to do something new for me tonight. I’m going to try to do this in Spanish tonight. The most important person of the night is Wadi. Wadi is from Honduras, and he’s my Spanish teacher. [laughter and applause] I have my list of words and phrases that I will forget. So!

WADE: [subtitles] You can ask questions, and as you ask them, he can read them.

Rep. MICK MULVANEY: [subtitles] “Can you tell the us actual status of the immigration reform right now?” Back at the beginning of last year, I thought we were going to come to a big agreement. Today, I don’t think so. Probably, we’re not going to get a vote this year. I think we’re going to have a vote next year.

MAN: [subtitles] I’m surprised because we’re always hearing, “This coming year.” Last year we heard the same thing, “Next year.”

Rep. MICK MULVANEY: [subtitles] Yes. It seems like we’re always saying, “Not this year. Not today, tomorrow!” How would you say it? I’m Irish Catholic, and we have a saying. The saying goes, “There’s free beer tomorrow,” OK? [laughter] It’s always tomorrow.

[subtitles] The House, where I work, doesn’t like the Senate. The Senate doesn’t like the House. And no one likes the president. No. [laughter] It’s very hard to work in Washington these days, even on simple things. Because of that, I don’t think we’re going to have a vote this year.

United We Dream National Congress

Phoenix, Arizona

LORELLA PRAELI, Policy & Advocacy Director, United We Dream: I’m trying to get my people energized around something that doesn’t really exist right now.

FRANK SHARRY, President, America’s Voice: I think— I think we’re down less than 5 percent of a chance, so— remember, we thought maybe Thanksgiving, maybe December. And then, you know, they hired Becky, and they seemed to be working in the back room, and so there was that last vain hope. But I think holding onto hope now borders on the—

LORELLA PRAELI: There’s nothing good happening here. Actually, there’s just nothing happening here— happening here.

SHARI ROBERTSON: The Dreamers have a history that got them here. Right now, they have a temporary protected status because during Obama’s reelection campaign, they attacked the president and staged sit-ins in his campaign offices. He finally responded with an executive order, DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The lesson they learned from that win is that political pressure works.

LORELLA PRAELI: I want to ask you to stand up if you’ve lost a sibling to deportation. I want you to remain standing and for all of us to look around. If you’ve lost a friend to deportation, stand up. Look around. If you fear— if you fear you’ll lose someone you love to deportation, stand up.

Is that what we’re fighting for?

AUDIENCE: Yes!

LORELLA PRAELI: We’re fighting because we want our families to be together. We don’t want to be afraid that they might be taken from us. That’s what this is about.

And we’ve had a long year, right? We had all of 2013 pushing for immigration reform, We— it was passed in the Senate. We’ve been fighting in the House to get them to take up a vote, I mean, since June, right? The Senate passed the bill in June and then still nothing.

So how many of you think that the GOP really wants to get this done and that they’re committed to getting it done this year? Raise your hand. Look around. So do we also know that— I mean, based on what you have communicated to us in your regional retreats, you believe that there’s one person who can give you what you want, right? Who is that?

AUDIENCE: Obama.

LORELLA PRAELI: Say it loud.

AUDIENCE: Obama!

LORELLA PRAELI: So you believe that Obama can stop that pain. You believe that Obama can stop the deportations. But President Obama says that only Congress has the power to stop deportation.

AUDIENCE: Boo!

LORELLA PRAELI: I say [expletive deleted] [cheers and applause]

He’s about to hit two million deportations, and he’s telling us that we have to wait for Congress to act. And mind you, we were— you know, we were on that— we were on that track. But we’ve now reassessed and we’ve made a choice, I think as a network, that there’s nothing happening there. And we can’t waste our time. We want to go after the administration full force for their deportations. [cheers and applause]

Do you believe that we can stand up and fight back?

AUDIENCE: Yes!

LORELLA PRAELI: What do we do when our families are under attack?

AUDIENCE: Stand up, fight back!

LORELLA PRAELI: What do we do?

AUDIENCE: Stand up, fight back!

LORELLA PRAELI: What do we do?

AUDIENCE: Stand up, fight back!

LORELLA PRAELI: What do we do?

AUDIENCE: Stand up, fight back!

LORELLA PRAELI: What do we do?

AUDIENCE: Stand up, fight back!

LORELLA PRAELI: Undocumented!

AUDIENCE: Unafraid!

LORELLA PRAELI: Undocumented!

AUDIENCE: Unafraid!

LORELLA PRAELI: Undocumented!

AUDIENCE: Unafraid!

LORELLA PRAELI: Up, up with education!

AUDIENCE: Down, down with deportation! Up, up with education! Down, down with deportation!

MAN: Want freedom! Whose freedom?

AUDIENCE: Our freedom!

MAN: Whose freedom?

AUDIENCE: Our freedom!

SHARI ROBERTSON: You don’t often get to be there at the historic moment. But that speech was the pivot. It launched the strategy that changed the year.

March 2014

MICHAEL CAMERINI: United We Dream threatened a campaign to go after Democrats and other organizations who didn’t come out against the deportations. The largest Hispanic advocacy organization in the country, the National Council of La Raza, NCLR, took note.

JANET MURGUIA, President, National Council of La Raza: —political gridlock. One week after saying he was ready to move forward with immigration reform, Speaker Boehner seems to have pulled the plug on legislation in the House— there’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws, and it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.

Seriously? Failing to enforce our laws? For us, this president has been the “Deporter-in-chief.”

NEWSCASTER: [subtitles] Today on Noticiero Telemundo, “Deporter-in-Chief” is what National Council of La Raza calls President Obama.

NEWSCASTER: [subtitles] President Barack Obama facing strong criticism for nearly two million deportations during his term.

NEWSCASTER: [subtitles] “Deporter-in-Chief.” It’s a phrase so powerful—

MICHAEL CAMERINI: From the minute NCLR President Janet Murguia said it, “Deporter-in-Chief,” the dominoes started to fall.

KATE JOHNSON, Gutiérrez Staffer: The “Deporter in chief” is now a hashtag. [laughter]

MICHAEL CAMERINI: By week’s end, nearly every high-ranking Democrat right up to Chuck Schumer had shifted from blasting Republican inaction to criticism of the White House, except for the often cautious Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the CHC. They remained silent.

The congressman’s staff saw the political danger the CHC was in and came up with the idea of drafting a simple resolution to get the caucus on record. They’re meeting to vote on it right now.

DOUG RIVLIN, Communications Director, Congressman Gutiérrez: It’s in their very best interests to actually come out with a proposal— with a resolution. If the CHC cannot decide that they’re opposed to two million deportations, given a week, they’re going to be pilloried. We are helping them to save their asses, as far as I’m concerned, and Republicans aren’t—

ALICE LUGO, Immigration Counsel, Congressman Gutiérrez: [laughs] Doug!

DOUG RIVLIN: So anyway—

SHARI ROBERTSON: They think they’ve done the CHC a favor with this little plan. But when President Obama’s staff gets word of the CHC resolution from a leaked story, the White House interpretation is entirely different. To them, it suddenly looks like Luis Gutiérrez is rounding up a posse of Democrats to go after the president.

While the CHC is meeting, the president’s office calls and asks its chair and vice chair, plus Luis Gutiérrez, to come to the White House.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: What the heck!

ALICE LUGO: We’re here. We made it. [laughs]

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: There’s a 5:30 meeting at the White House. All of this is highly unusual and uncharacteristic of a simple resolution. We recessed until after the meeting with the president, to then take a vote because—

SUSAN COLLINS, Chief of Staff, Congressman Gutiérrez: When are you getting back together? Tonight? Tomorrow?

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Of course, there’s no staff. You don’t— don’t ask me. You know I’m useless without a staff telling me when the next meeting is. [laughter] But that’s what we voted on. We’re recessed.

SUSAN COLLINS: Oh?

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Garcia was, like, “Luis!” Garcia is funny. “You got ‘em by the balls!” Like, they’re looking at me, like— they’re, like— they think they need to implore me because they think I’m going to go, “[expletive deleted] that [expletive deleted], we’re voting on this now, and I’m going now to the president.” That’s where they believe I’m at, right? You can tell— oh, they’re in— they’re in—

DOUG RIVLIN: This was, like, the most innocent idea—

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: This is, like— [crosstalk] I kept going, “This is an innocent thing that we’re doing. It’s so”— I said—

DOUG RIVLIN: And we’re catching up with Chuck Schumer. [laughter]

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Yeah, we’re catching up with everybody else! [laughter] So they really do fear. When I talked to them at the White House, with our buddy at the White House— “Why isn’t Bob Menendez coming? Why aren’t other caucus members coming?” “Well, the president wants to meet with you because” you know. And I think— and you know what he told me? “This is a great opportunity because I think the two of you should be talking to one another.” Right?

DOUG RIVLIN: That’s lovely. Another way to— what it is, “You’re going to get whacked, and we don’t want no witnesses.” [laughter]

MICHAEL CAMERINI: We wait for almost two hours while the Congressman meets with the president.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: [getting into car] OK. Oy! Oh, it’s cold!

STAFFER: That was long!

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: I know. Well, so— we’re going to have a caucus meeting.

SUSAN COLLINS: Right now?

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Yeah. And here’s what he told us. So this is not for public, right? Republicans are saying, “We need until June, July,” right? He’s saying, “I need until June, July,” right? Like, “I’ll step up my efforts within the confines of what is possible.”

And he said, “Luis, you come back here in July. I’ll either be signing a bill or we’ll have decided that, screw it, there’s— this ain’t going to happen. In the meantime, you meet with Jeh Johnson and go through the whole series of things that you got with him,” right? “And then if you don’t— you can say ‘That’s not enough for us,’ ” right? “And then you can keep challenging him.”

SUSAN COLLINS: So did the president actually ask you not to move forward with the resolution today?

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Yeah. Yeah, he did. He— well, did he? I’m trying to think. Yeah, don’t do the resolution, right? [to driver] You should go that way. Oh, you are.

His response is, “OK, I hear you. I want you to meet. I’ve called my secretary of Homeland Security. I’ve asked him to look at a menu of things within— that he can use, what discretions he has to further”—

SHARI ROBERTSON: Nobody was expecting this, but now it’s obvious. Obama’s been holding off on lowering deportations on his own, hoping Díaz-Balart and Ryan would succeed with legislation. But outside pressure is reaching crisis level. If the president’s going to give Republicans more time, he’s going to need some help from Luis Gutiérrez.

So they have a deal. The congressman will try to hold off the advocates and keep the community focused on a legislative solution until July 4th. After that, there won’t be enough time to start on a bill before summer recess and elections in the fall. If Republicans fail to introduce a bill, Obama has promised Gutiérrez he’ll take executive action to cut back on deportations.

That’s going to be the Congressman’s Plan B. His first move, start the clock.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: [floor speech] Madam Speaker, almost a year with no serious movement forward on immigration reform in the House, I’m beginning to wonder whether Republicans will get serious about immigration before they run out of time.

Well, I want to be helpful, so I’ve done a little calculating. Including today, we have 34 legislative days before the July 4th recess. If you don’t act in the next 34 days, if you refuse to give the president a bill he can sign because you say you don’t trust him to enforce immigration law, even though he has spent more money and deported more people than any president before him, I believe he will act without you.

I saw it in his eyes when I met with him. He didn’t run for office so that he could deport two million people and put thousands of American children in foster care.

The president knows the kind of pain that congressional inaction has caused for families and children. The president wants to be an emancipator, not a deporter, and he will act if he has to. If you give him no choice, this president is going to take charge himself, as well he should.

So once again, Mr. Speaker, we offer a lifeline to Republicans. Let’s work together. The American people are waiting.

SUSAN COLLINS: You know, everybody is, like, out for blood in the community. Everybody wants something now, and they want it now, right? And so just having him talk about kind of setting up the— you know, the— the clock is running, and Republicans, you have this window to get something done, and every day you don’t, there’s this many— it’s kind of, like, you know, building pressure in theory against Republicans. But it’s, you know, no coincidence that it’s set up to— to mark July as the time when the— when the shift and a real demand comes if there’s no legislation.

MICHAEL CAMERINI: Very soon after Congressman Gutiérrez went to the White House, the president and Speaker Boehner talked, and Paul Ryan and Mario Díaz-Balart got the word from the speaker— start that whip count again.

Office of Congressman Mick Mulvaney

— Congressman, how’re you doing?

— How are you?

— Good to see you.

— Good to see you again.

— Nice to meet you.

AL SIMPSON, Rep. Mulvaney Chief of Staff: You guys OK?

SHARI ROBERTSON: [on camera] We’re good.

AL SIMPSON: You’re sweating!

SHARI ROBERTSON: [on camera] It’s rain.

AL SIMPSON: Oh, is that rain?

MICHAEL CAMERINI: So now it’s recruitment time for Díaz-Balart and Cesar— persuade fellow Republicans to support a big immigration reform package and persuade them that the time to do that is now.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART (R), Florida: So I think when people say, “Well, you know, doesn’t matter what we can do, particularly with this president, he’s not going to enforce it,” is a legitimate issue. So the question and what we’ve been doing a lot of work on is, can you hold this and future administrations accountable when we’re dealing with immigration reform? I think we can.

MICHAEL CAMERINI: Here’s the surprise. The strategy is to target the hard-core Tea Party conservatives like Mick Mulvaney, guys who’ve even voted against Boehner in the speakership elections.

If they support the bill, it’ll be because it fits conservative priorities— secure the border first, end illegal immigration.

Rep. MICK MULVANEY (R), South Carolina: They’re so frustrated with the status quo. They’re so frustrated with what it is now. You know, I think it was Trey who was on television, who— you know, I think he probably stole it from you because that’s just the kind of guy that he is, but he’s on television, and he said, “Look, what we have now is amnesty. What we have now is a complete disaster.”

I don’t know now you’re going to fix it, but that’s the key. How do you make it self-enforcing so that it doesn’t depend on the whim of any president?

SHARI ROBERTSON: Here’s what Cesar and Díaz-Balart are counting on— if Tea Party stars support their bill, the more cautious Republicans will follow.

CESAR GONZALEZ, Chief of Staff, Rep. Díaz-Balart: You know, so if their top guys are able to do it, then that next tier feel like they can point and say, you know, “So-and-So is doing it, then I should be able to do it” because, you know, he’s— he’s one of the darlings.

SUSAN COLLINS: I’ve heard a lot from Cesar from Mario Díaz-Balart’s office, who’s working with Casey and Paul Ryan— so anyway, everybody has— like, the gum has been pulled out of the gears, and everybody is starting to work on their pieces again. And I actually think all this talk about executive action, whether they like to admit it or not, is— I feel like it’s getting people who want to get this done moving.

April 2014

Rep. TREY GOWDY (R), South Carolina: Mr. Speaker, I want to have a pop quiz. And the answer to every one of the questions is the same. I’m going to read a quote, and then you tell me who said it! “These last few years, we’ve seen an unacceptable abuse of power, having a president whose priority is expanding his own power.”

Any guess on who said that, Mr. Speaker? It was Senator Barack Obama! How does going from being a senator to a president rewrite the Constitution? Mr. Speaker, I don’t think there’s an amendment to the Constitution that I missed. I try to keep up with those with regularity—

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: [subtitles] When I wrote that resolution for the caucus— [in English] The president calls us. “I’d like to see you at 5:30.” Seriously? And then he says— he says, “Come the end of July”— oh, he’s going to do it. He’s going to [unintelligible] He says, “Come the end of July, Luis, I want to make”— come the end of July, you bring your menu and we’re going to pick— we’re going to start choosing.”

Well, Papa, if you’re him and you know that all these people [expletive deleted] are pissed at you, denouncing you, and you’re, like, going “What the [expletive deleted]?” From his perspective, “[expletive deleted] [subtitles] He’s doing it! [in English] “What are you going to do, impeach me? You said I was illegal.”

[at restaurant]

Rep. DÍAZ-BALART: People are saying—

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: I like him. I’ve always liked him.

Rep. DÍAZ-BALART: —he’s a legislator.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: I’ve always liked him, good old FBI guy.

SUSAN COLLINS: A dying breed.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: So you guys sit down with everybody and—

CESAR GONZALEZ: That’s what we’re doing. We start tomorrow morning.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: [subtitles] We don’t need the majority of Republicans to vote in our favor. We need them to not kill the leadership, the majority of them, because there is a group that wants to kill it. And that’s OK. We need the majority to just say, “It’s OK.”

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Right. I get it.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: And I don’t care what you do [unintelligible]

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Like you do on any other things. OK.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: Yeah, or you like to shut down and like everything else— [crosstalk]

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: —shut down like you do? OK, we don’t really—

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: With the shutdown, it was wink, wink, and get it done.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: OK, we’re going to do it.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: Exacto. Perfecto.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: [subtitles] Because we already have the votes.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: But you know what? Here’s what I’m finding. When we go through it, people say, “This is pretty good.” So now we’re finally implementing it. The ones that we know are not only with us but that are really with us— those guys, I want to see if they can help us, in essence whip it, you know? The ones that help— [crosstalk]

CESAR GONZALEZ: Mulvaney.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Is Mulvaney helping you?

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: It’s big time. He wants yes!

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: He’s from South Carolina.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: This son of a bitch has town hall meetings in Spanish. And then when the blanco says, “Hey, Congressman, why did you have that meeting?” He says, “Don’t worry about it.” I couldn’t understand. He says, “I wasn’t talking to you.” [laughs] I wasn’t talking to you!

CESAR GONZALEZ: But the good thing about him is his district is next door to Trey Gowdy’s.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Right.

CESAR GONZALEZ: Mulvaney is key to getting him because he provides the cover, because Mulvaney is seen as extremely far right.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: Mulvaney makes the Tea Party look like left-wingers.

CESAR GONZALEZ: Yeah.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: No, he does. [subtitles] But in this, he’s great.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: [subtitles] There are miracles in these things.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: Yeah.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: I feel good, and I see an end game.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: Yes. No, and we have— we have a plan.

CESAR GONZALEZ: This is where we’re at now. So after the speaker says, you know, kind of the cold water stuff, you know, “Hey, hold off,” so we held off for a little while, they’ve kind of asked us to re-engage, right? And so Mario has begun to do outreach to a bunch of different members, depending on how, you know— you know, the different groups, different coalitions, and then go from there, and then, you know, see if we can— the main thing that we’re trying to do is, who can bring other people aboard— on board?

SHARI ROBERTSON: David and Cesar are old friends. They’re both from Miami, grew up just a few blocks apart. This is a pretty typical Washington moment. David’s the Democratic staffer, Cesar’s the Republican, and they’re heading to appear on a panel together.

DAVID SHAHOULIAN, Chief Immigration Counsel, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA): And I’m going to be very nice to you. I’m going to be very nice to Boehner. I mean, should I be nice to Boehner? I think I should, huh?

CESAR GONZALEZ: You should, yeah. I mean, Boehner’s the one—

DAVID SHAHOULIAN: [expletive deleted] I know. I’m impressed.

CESAR GONZALEZ: It’s the other one that has me concerned.

DAVID SHAHOULIAN: You mean Cantor?

CESAR GONZALEZ: Yeah.

DAVID SHAHOULIAN: Where’s McCarthy? Also not in a good place, I hear.

CESAR GONZALEZ: He’ll just follow along.

DAVID SHAHOULIAN: Who?

CESAR GONZALEZ: That’s the question.

DAVID SHAHOULIAN: I don’t see how you guys move it, to be honest, but you know, I—

CESAR GONZALEZ: The leadership understands— I mean, like, the meetings I’ve been on, they— they completely understand the political issue. And on the policy issue, I mean—

DAVID SHAHOULIAN: It seems really—

CESAR GONZALEZ: I know. It’s still tough, but—

DAVID SHAHOULIAN: I don’t know if I can stick around that much longer, dude.

CESAR GONZALEZ: We’re giving it— we’re giving it to until the end of June.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: [floor speech, 30 days] Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This is my weekly reminder to House Republicans that they have only 30 legislative days before the July 4th recess. In that time, they had better allow a vote on immigration reform, or the president will take executive action to reform our immigration system.

[25 days] Tick, tick, tick. The clock and the calendar march on.

[14 days] Children want their moms and dads to be here to see them achieve the American dream. And of one thing I am confident, if the majority leader fails to act, the president will, and he will do so boldly!

The time is running out. If you don’t take action, the president will take action to permit millions upon millions of undocumented immigrants to be able to live safely in the United States of America. It’s your choice!

Republican Party Breakfast

Goose Creek, South Carolina

MAN: At this time, please join me in welcoming Congressman Mulvaney to Berkeley County. [applause]

Rep. MICK MULVANEY: Thank you. Thank you. Thanks. I want to talk about something that we don’t talk about much in the Republican Party, which is fruit. I would like to talk about fruit because I got a piece of fruit on my desk about a year ago, an unusual piece of fruit, not something you ordinarily get from South Carolina. We get peaches on our desk all the time. Sometimes you get other stuff from around the country.

But about a year ago, I got a piece of fruit on my desk. It was a cantaloupe. Does anybody know why the cantaloupe was on my desk?

Trey Gowdy is the chairman of the Immigration Subcommittee on the Judiciary Committee and was trying to have a discussion about folks who are here illegally. And Trey said, “Well, you know, I’ve actually met a couple of folks who have been here a long time, have gone through school and are the valedictorians of their classes,” and was interrupted by another member of my party, who said, “Trey, you know, that’s exactly right. But for every one of those who is a valedictorian in their party, there are a 100 of them with calves the size of cantaloupes carrying 75-pound bags of marijuana across the southwestern border.”

And certainly, we can talk later on about what a tremendous threat the southwestern border is right now. But I want you to think about the message and the way that message was conveyed by that member of Congress— calves the size of cantaloupes carrying bags of marijuana across the border.

The next day, I had a cantaloupe on my desk, and it was brought there by a group who were upset by what that Republican member of Congress said.

Every single Republican member of Congress got a cantaloupe on their desk within 24 hours. Think about how angry we had made somebody to do that with that statement. Think about whether or not that person is ever, ever going to consider voting for a Republican candidate ever again.

At some point, we’re going to have to figure out that if you take the entire African-American community and write them off, take the entire Hispanic community and write them off, take the entire libertarian community and write them off, take the entire gay community and write them off, what’s left? About 38 percent of the country.

You cannot win with 38 percent of the country. We need to stop celebrating the absurd in our party and stop rewarding the outrageous and the stupid. We have to figure out how to deal with it as a party. We’re losing too many elections. We’re writing off too many people.

I’ll give you one last number. Mitt Romney won Texas by 900,000 votes— pretty good. There are three million Hispanic people in Texas who will be able to register to vote before the next election, 2016— three million new Hispanic voters who were not eligible to vote in 2012, but will be eligible to vote in 2016.

If the next Republican candidate for president gets the same percentage of the Hispanic vote that Mitt Romney got, we will lose Texas— not in 2024, not in 2020, but in 2016. And if we lose Texas, folks, I’ve got news for you. We’re never going to elect a Republican president again.

May 2014

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Friday, at 5:00 o’clock, I was really worried.

JEH JOHNSON, Secretary of Homeland Security: Are you running for president? [laughter]

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: A thousand people— no, no, no, I’m not. I’m not.

JEH JOHNSON: You haven’t declared your interest yet?

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: No. I’m— I’m here to make this a successful program.

JEH JOHNSON: Because that is a primary state, you know. [laughter]

MICHAEL CAMERINI: Secretary Johnson and the congressman have already met several times since that White House visit back in March. They seemed to hit it off right away. The secretary has been conducting a review of how far the president can legally go in changing deportation policies. Legal scholars have told Gutiérrez the president has constitutional authority to protect as many as eight million of the undocumented.

Rep. BOB GOODLATTE (R-VA), Judiciary Committee Chairman: We welcome everyone to this morning’s oversight hearing on oversight of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

MICHAEL CAMERINI: But the news that Secretary Johnson is reviewing options about who to prosecute, who to deport, doesn’t sit well with Republicans, even those like Trey Gowdy, who might have supported a legislative deal to extend legal status to some immigrants.

Rep. TREY GOWDY (R), South Carolina: No, are there limits— are there limits on the theory of prosecutorial discretion? Are there any categories of law that the chief executive really actually has to enforce, and this time we really mean it?

JEH JOHNSON: As a lawyer, I will tell you I believe there are.

Rep. TREY GOWDY: Mr. Secretary, I will say this in conclusion. I would urge you to help me find where that line is between prosecutorial discretion and just deciding you don’t like to enforce a law.

JEH JOHNSON: I think that the legislative branch, in general, whether its the enforcement if immigration laws—

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: [subtitles] We have a new secretary of Homeland Security, a very different one. You can see the sympathy he feels for our cause and for the deportations, the separation of families. So I think the summary of our meeting—

DOUG RIVLIN, Communications Director, Congressman Gutiérrez: So Kate’s going to get the bread.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Oh, OK. Why? Because then I’m going to eat it over there?

DOUG RIVLIN: She’s going to meet us in the car. You can eat it in the car.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Where’s the car?

DOUG RIVLIN: Right downstairs.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: OK, so— [crosstalk] Here’s the interesting thing, what he said. He says—

DOUG RIVLIN: Juan Carlos?

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Juan— he says, “And I just want to make sure that all our television viewers understand Luis Gutiérrez isn’t one to carry water for President Obama or the White House position. So the fact that he is changing should be something that we have be- make— make a note of today.” That’s because they’re going to— they change. You change. I change.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: And nobody has— has—

[at restaurant]

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: So let me ask you. No leaks?

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: No leaks.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: No? We’re good.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: No Leaks.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Well, the White House believes you guys are going to come through.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: No, we’re going to come through.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: They do— oh, they do.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: We’re going to come through.

CESAR GONZALEZ: I mean, I told the White House— [crosstalk] It’s a lose-lose! [crosstalk] They’re completely politically tone deaf to the House. They have no understanding of the House.

SHARI ROBERTSON: Out of the blue, a couple of days ago, the White House announced it had asked Secretary Johnson to delay his review of deportation policy. They said it was to give Republicans more time to work on a bill. The announcement upset both advocates and House Republicans.

[at restaurant]

CESAR GONZALEZ: And then when I talk to them about it, they’re, like, “Really? It’s an issue?” I’m like, “How could you not realize”—

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: Some of us have said two months, just low key, which he’s doing. He’s an— but you don’t announce that you’re doing it. [crosstalk] And then he says— and then he says— remember, the whole issue is that there’s— the distrust issue, right?

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: So you’re— you don’t think he should have announced that he isn’t going to announce?

CESAR GONZALEZ: No. Because let me tell you why. Because let me tell you what that means.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: I couldn’t agree with you more.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: Yeah! Just shut up!

CESAR GONZALEZ: It may not be— [crosstalk]

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: —the White House. We’re not going to do anything— pisses off everybody! [crosstalk] This is mostly a problem that doesn’t exist.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: I know—

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Was it a problem for you guys for him to say it? Did he need to say it to your caucus?

CESAR GONZALEZ: No. We actually would prefer he would have been quiet.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: Let me tell you— because let me tell you what he does. So on the left, he pisses everybody off.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Right.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: And on the right, they say, “Wait a second”—

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: But it’s only you [unintelligible]

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: No, the— because— because here’s the— they say, “Oh, so the president is saying that if we don’t act”— remember what some of the guys say. They say, “We can’t trust him,” right? “He will— he will violate the law.”

And then he says, “Well”— he says, “If you guys don’t act, I’m going to violate the law.” And they’re saying, “You see? This guy violates the law” because he’s saying he’s going to violate the law if we don’t do something.” Can you imagine all they’re going to be able to say if we don’t get it done?

CESAR GONZALEZ: You’ve waited six years and now you can’t wait two months.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: And now you can’t wait two months, yeah. For two years— six years, he didn’t do anything. Nothing. For six years, you were chained to the White House, right? You were chaining yourself. For five years, you were chaining yourself, you know, cussing him out— no, not important.

And now, we have a window of two months, now. It’s like when he decides to, like, you know— “Oh, yeah, after that, if we get it done, we’re happy. And we don’t get it done, go to town. Go to town.” [laughter]

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: [unintelligible] after this vote!

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: Yeah, wait a few months.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: [unintelligible] said do it now.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: Yeah. Absolutely.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Yeah, I mean, he was our guy. Go—

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: So Luis, we are now so close, man.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: I’m happy.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: We are so close.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: You got a good whip team?

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: We do. And they’re committed and they’re doing their job. They’re doing it, like, aggressively.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Yeah?

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: We need to show the leadership our whip counts.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: OK.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: Cesar said that hopefully, at the end of this week, right, is when we’ll be able to show them numbers?

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: [Capitol hallway] So what they’re doing is organizing Republicans on a whip count to pass immigration reform, something that Nancy Pelosi never did during her four years as speaker. She never ordered a whip count. She never said, I want a whip count and I want you to go get the votes, never did it, four years. That’s— I’m impressed.

[to passing congressman] Coffman!

He’s with us, too. He’s with us, too! We’re going to get everybody in the end.

June 2014

MICHAEL CAMERINI: It’s Monday, June 9th. After months of work and countless one-on-one conversations, Paul Ryan and Mario Díaz-Balart have carefully crafted a bill they know the majority of Republicans can agree on. They have the votes. They make an appointment to see Boehner on Thursday .

SHARI ROBERTSON: Tuesday, June 10th. Primary season’s almost over. Washington’s slowing down a little. The Díaz-Balart office meets for drinks after work to celebrate their whip count.

Then it’s 9:00 PM, and a piece of news almost unimaginable in Washington breaks, a primary race that no one’s even watching— Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, the guy widely expected to take over John Boehner’s job, has just lost his primary to a political unknown.

Dave Brat, the challenger, got a huge campaign boost when conservative radio host Laura Ingraham adopted him and made a hard line on immigration his main campaign issue.

When they thought about it, everybody on the Hill knew there were plenty of other reasons for Cantor’s voters to dump him, but it was Brat’s opposition to immigration that got all the credit.

SUSAN COLLINS: The show must go on.

DOUG RIVLIN: The show must go on!

SUSAN COLLINS: Who the hell knew? Somebody deserves to be fired today.

I was, like, Why— I mean, why is it such a blow? Why does it feel like when the bill went down in— you know, like one of those moments when you’re, like, Oh! [unintelligible] like you were buried under bricks. It’s because I didn’t want it to fail this way! Like, this was not part— you know, like, fail after a struggle, what— you know, whatever, but not fail like this!

CESAR GONZALEZ: Not exactly the day I had planned.

SHARI ROBERTSON: [on camera] Did anybody?

CESAR GONZALEZ: No. In our conversations with folks, we— we started to whip it. You know, we were asking yes, no. And we were getting the yeses.

MICHAEL CAMERINI: [on camera] And you— by the end, your count was high enough that you felt you could take it to the speaker.

CESAR GONZALEZ: The speaker already knew what our count was. He found out.

MICHAEL CAMERINI: [voice-over] The news about Cantor wasn’t the worst news of the week.

MEGYN KELLY, Fox News: Breaking tonight, disturbing new images of the unprecedented crisis along our southern border, where thousands of young children are surging across, many without any parents, and the U.S. basically doesn’t know what to do with them.

The president is likely to take his pen and his phone and do— something. His critics say that’s how we got in this position of these children and their parents believing they could cross with impunity. What say you?

LOU DOBBS, Fox Business: Most of those who have made it to our border, 60,000 this year, a quarter of a million estimated over the next two years—

MICHAEL CAMERINI: In just about a week, 7,212 Republican primary voters in Eric Cantor’s congressional district and non-stop media coverage of a border invasion told Republican House members all they needed to know. The whip count commitments evaporated. That pretty much finished off chances for an immigration bill.

SHARI ROBERTSON: [voice-over] And only a couple of dozen people knew how close it had come.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: It is time for the president to act. We can wait no longer. We’ve waited long enough. It’s time to act. And we need to— and we need to be out in front and ahead of this. It’s too long. I mean, they’re going to keep trying, right? I mean, it’s nice to get a hug from Boehner.

No, it is nice. You know, it’s nice. And they’re very nice to me. The Republicans— they’re very nice to me. It’s true. We’ve built a lot of friends. But I can’t get them to pull the trigger. I think it’s just— it’s just taking— we’ve got to build it up because you know what’ll happen by the end of July? Nothing.

DOUG RIVLIN: And I figured out my career trajectory. I want to be a former speech writer, like Peggy Noonan or Pat Buchanan or Michael Gerson.

SUSAN COLLINS: Don’t say that, Rivlin. I get your point, but let’s [unintelligible]

DOUG RIVLIN: We’re both from Washington, D.C. So here’s the concept. And I don’t know whether the boss will buy it, but in April, I put you on warning, and now I’m throwing you out of the game. You’re done. You had your opportunity to deliver.

There have been a few flagrant fouls, like blaming this on the president for not enforcing the law when he’s deported more people, or exploiting these little kids coming across the border. And now you’re out. Democrats, the president is the only player left on the field, and we’re going to make sure that he’s— but don’t you think that if Gutiérrez is going like this to the Republicans, that’ll be in— that picture will be in every single paper in Spanish?

SUSAN COLLINS: Where’d you get these?

DOUG RIVLIN: I don’t know.

SUSAN COLLINS: [unintelligible] newspaper. You don’t remember?

DOUG RIVLIN: No. This is for the special World Cup edition.

ALICE LUGO, Immigration Counsel, Congressman Gutiérrez: To do, like, the red card ejection, Susan.

SUSAN COLLINS: Oh, I love it. I love it.

DOUG RIVLIN: Yeah.

SUSAN COLLINS: It’s current.

ALICE LUGO: [laughs] It’s very hip, Doug.

DOUG RIVLIN: It is choreography and the use of props, so there’s— you know, there’s always a down— [drops cards] Whoops! Just a moment, Mr. Speaker! [laughter]

ALICE LUGO: Yeah, he has to do it, like— very convincing- -

SUSAN COLLINS: We have to show them a few videos of it happening.

DOUG RIVLIN: Yes.

SUSAN COLLINS: Yeah, and I feel like you. I think we should just— maybe we should just say to Republicans, “You don’t like it?”

DOUG RIVLIN: In the absence of reform—

SUSAN COLLINS: “You don’t like it, and then freaking change it. Pass a law that you’d like to see.”

DOUG RIVLIN: Yeah.

SUSAN COLLINS: “Nobody is stopping you from meeting on this. Nobody is preventing you from coming up with the solution that you think is best for America, so come up with it.” You losers. [laughter] You lame-o’s!

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: [floor speech] A year ago this Friday marks the one-year anniversary of passage of the bipartisan Senate immigration bill that passed with 68 votes in the Senate. You know, Madam Speaker, I kept hoping the better angels in the Republican Party would tap down the irrational and angry angels blocking reform the American people want and deserve.

And then the last straw. As violence and poverty and gangs drive families out of Central America, I see Republican members of Congress and their allies and talk radio and TV taking advantage of a humanitarian crisis to score cheap, political points.

I gave you warning three months ago, and now I have no other choice. [waves red card] You’re done.

DOUG RIVLIN: Oh!

ALICE LUGO: No, no, no! [laughter]

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: You’re done. Leave the field. Too many flagrant offenses and unfair attacks and too little action. You’re out. Hit the showers. It’s the red card.

The Republicans have failed America and failed themselves. Mr. Speaker, it is now time for the president to act.

SHARI ROBERTSON: A lot of people were devastated when Luis Gutiérrez gave up on legislation. But Luis Gutiérrez always had his Plan B.

FALL 2014

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: [on the phone] If we could do that I think— because look, I mean, you know what the ask is, right, Secretary Johnson and Cecilia? I mean, the ask is use the memorandum of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus on page 4 and 5—

MICHAEL CAMERINI: They talked all summer and into the fall. There’s still no final decision on how many people the president’s executive order will cover. The congressman wants him to go big, to give as many people as possible a legal protection from deportation, even if it’s temporary.

Inside the White House, the work is slow. Secretary Johnson is getting pushback from Justice Department and White House lawyers, whose concern is keeping the president within legal bounds.

Rock Hill, South Carolina

SHARI ROBERTSON: Congressman Mulvaney often conducts his town halls on line.

DAN HANLON, District Congressional Liaison: Next one is Penny Smith.

Rep. MICK MULVANEY: Penny. “Is there anything to be done about illegal people entering South Carolina? Oh! OK. That’s a 15-word question with a 1,000-word answer.

STEPHANIE FAILE Communications Director, Rep. Mulvaney: Well, why don’t you say no?

DAN HANLON: But she did say, “Thank you for taking the time for doing this.”

STEPHANIE FAILE: Yeah.

DAN HANLON: She followed up.

STEPHANIE FAILE: Any time, Penny.

Rep. MICK MULVANEY: I will always wonder as to whether or not what happened on the southwestern border was done on purpose, or was it an accident, because I don’t know. I don’t have a gut feeling one way or the other as to whether or not the president feared that there would be some type of large agreement that he wasn’t involved with and that he didn’t want it to go the way that it was going. I don’t know.

The question was really, Do you want to do it now? Do you want to do it later? Or do you want to do it never? And I think the thing that was encouraging was before the meltdown on the southwestern border, it’s fair to say that there were a majority of Republicans who wanted to take it up now. I was absolutely convinced that there were Republicans and Democrats in the House that wanted to fix the problem.

And that’s— that’s kind of invigorating, if you stop to think about it, because so many times, we face all these challenges and you’re not really convinced the other side wants to fix it. I am convinced that— that people in both parties wanted to fix immigration. And we haven’t yet.

United We Dream Headquarters

Washington, D.C.

MICHAEL CAMERINI: Dreamers had started out last year demanding a new law that would give citizenship to millions. Now they’re just hoping the president can stop the deportations.

LORELLA PRAELI, Policy & Advocacy Director, United We Dream: Everyone is trying to work with limited information. So we should just assume that something’s going to— some— because the press is going crazy over this—

MICHAEL CAMERINI: It’s now November 19th. Tonight, Congressman Gutiérrez will have dinner at the White House. Tomorrow, the president will announce his plan. People don’t have the details yet, but Republicans who’ve wanted immigration reform know executive action will make it harder to start again.

Rep. MARIO DÍAZ-BALART: [to reporter] Look, the positive thing is that I think it’ll stop some separations of families, of American children whose parents might be deported. I think that’s possible. But it doesn’t do it long-term. It doesn’t secure the borders in a real way. It doesn’t fix the system that has created the crisis that we have today. So it is, at best, a short-term Band-Aid. At worst, it could make it worse and it could make it very difficult, even more difficult to actually fix the system.

10:30 PM

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: He said, “I got four million. It’s a down payment. I’d like to do more. But I couldn’t use economic arguments. I couldn’t extend— I had to use humanitarian arguments. They needed to have some kind of a presence in the United States.” I wanted to be, like, “Here, thank you, this is great,” because this is what we have to do. This is what we have do. We have to declare victory.

Our people are tired of one defeat after another! We go out there quibbling about this, they’re going to say, “Well, Luis Gutiérrez, dijo que”— and that’s how they’re going to feel. I think we have to use who we are and understand who we are within this.

And then at the end, I told him, “Mr. President, I want you to walk out of here with the assurance”— and that’s why I’m saying it publicly in front of everybody else— “that I’m— you’re going to be— you’re going to be proud to have me as one of your top supporters.” So—

DOUG RIVLIN: So Univision and Telemundo are desperate to talk to you.

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: All right. Let’s do it.

Guys, look what I got, though. Look what I got! [White House place card]

STAFFER: Oh!

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Shh! Oh! [laughter] I went like this, “Mr. President, I love being at this meeting so much, you’re so great, and I got to leave. Sorry.” [laughter]

STAFFER: You are—

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: It’s a historical meeting! Come on!

DOUG RIVLIN: It’s a good thing that the doorknobs were attached to the door! [laughter]

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: This is a historical meeting. Right?

[to reporter] —express themselves this evening. I have been if not one of the toughest critics of this president, certainly among the toughest critics of this president when it comes to immigration policy. I got to tell you, tomorrow’s going to be an historic evening.

REPORTER: [subtitles] Now in Spanish. No, because you said it better in English than in Spanish. [laughter]

Rep. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: OK. [subtitles] I’ll try. I’ll try. English is my first language. I have to translate. It’s not easy.

[subtitles] This is the president I voted for. He’s going to be fighting for justice for millions of undocumented people, people who had no one supporting them. The mission isn’t over. I think we have to look at the positive and at our win! We’ve been trying for decades.

LORELLA PRAELI, Policy & Advocacy Director, United We Dream: [at viewing party] We’re just standing here. It’s kind of awkward. We’re never this quiet. Where’s my mom?

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: My fellow Americans, tonight, I’d like to talk with you about immigration. For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. But today, our immigration system is broken and everybody knows it.

When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. There are actions I have the legal authority to take as president that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.

So we’re going to offer the following deal. If you’ve been in America for more than five years, if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents, if you register, pass a criminal background check and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes, you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. We’re not going to deport you.

I know the politics of this issue are tough. But let me tell you why I have come to feel so strongly about it. These people, our neighbors, our classmates, our friends, they did not come here in search of a free ride or an easy life. They came to work and study and serve in our military, and above all, contribute to America’s success.

Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger for we know the heart of a stranger. We were strangers once, too. My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. That’s the tradition we must uphold. That’s the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come.

Thank you. God bless you, and God bless this country we love.

SHARI ROBERTSON: Nobody quite knew what would happen next. And in a way, you could say that still. Two weeks after the president’s speech, 17 state attorneys general filed a lawsuit against his executive orders. Almost a year later, the whole thing is still tied up in the courts.

So America’s immigration battle goes on. But those new voters, those Latino and immigrant voters who made such a difference in 2012, their numbers are growing. And there’s another election coming next year.

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