In Floor Speech, Gutiérrez Decries Illinois’ Rauner and other Governors, saying “ISIS could not have written a better script.”
Washington, DC –(ENEWSPF)–November 17, 2015. Today, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) spoke on the House floor (at approximately 10:00 a.m. ET) in response to Governor Rauner of Illinois and a dozen or more mostly Republican governors who said their states would refuse to take refugees fleeing terror and the Assad regime in Syria. Governors do not actually have this power, so their executive orders and pronouncements have overstepped their bounds, but Rep. Gutiérrez called their rejection of refugees “despicable and cowardly and exactly the kind of reaction ISIS wanted” in response to the Paris terror attacks.
Rep. Gutiérrez said:
When we sent Jews back to Germany and when we sent Japanese to internment camps, we regretted it and we will regret this as well. We have had candidates actually say that refugees seeking safety in the strongest nation in the world must first pass a test to prove they are from an ‘acceptable’ religion. In the United States of America, they said this. In the 21st century.
Rep. Gutiérrez also said:
Let us, as legislators, leaders and patriots, rise above petty politics, rise above sectarian fears, rise above the underlying layer of xenophobia that often surfaces in this country at moments like this throughout our history. And let us maintain America’s commitment to being a beacon of hope for those fleeing oppression, violence, and intolerance; A haven for the religiously persecuted, whether they are Buddhists from Tibet, Christians from Iran, or Pilgrims from Europe. That is who we are.
A video of the Congressman’s floor speech is here: https://youtu.be/4f4FlVujVKY
The text, as prepared for delivery, is below.
The Congressman participates today in a hearing of the Judiciary Committee on Department of Justice oversight with Attorney General Loretta Lynch at which the subject of the Paris attacks, Syrian refugees and security will be discussed. The Immigration Subcommittee is also scheduled to hold a hearing on Syrian refugees on Thursday.
Rep. Gutiérrez represents the Fourth District of Illinois, is a Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, is a Member of the Judiciary Committee and the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, and is the Co-Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He was one of the main subjects in the FRONTLINE PBS documentary “Immigration Battle,” that aired on Tuesday, October 20 and can be streamed online.
Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez — Remarks 11/17/2015
We are shocked, horrified, and deeply saddened by the news coming from Paris.
As a Member of the Intelligence Committee, I know that there is much to fear – both for our allies and for us.
But in light of the attacks on our ally France last Friday, I urge my colleagues to keep a cool head and not react in exactly the way that ISIS and other terrorists hope we do: with fear, with chaos, and with lashing out.
But sadly, that is what we have already seen Republican Governors, elected leaders, candidates, and media figures doing.
I have been here long enough to know a thing or two about opportunism.
Maybe it is too much to resist when you are one of 15 candidates for President.
Politicians, pundits, and celebrities will be tempted to say whatever they can to get the news cameras pointed at them.
The Governor of Illinois, my home state, could not resist saying our state was closed to Syrians fleeing the terror of ISIS and the Assad regime.
The Governor of Louisiana, the son of immigrants running for President of a nation of immigrants said no to refugees.
The Governors of a dozen other states did too.
And Texans – the ones who say “don’t mess with Texas” – well, their governor says that they are terrified of refugees so Texas will not take them, either.
This is despicable and cowardly and precisely the kind of reaction ISIS wanted.
ISIS could not have written a better script. The free people of the world are turning their backs on people seeking safety and freedom.
When we sent Jews back to Germany and when we sent Japanese to internment camps, we regretted it and we will regret this as well.
We have had candidates actually say that refugees seeking safety in the strongest nation in the world must first pass a test to prove they are from an ‘acceptable’ religion.
In the United States of America, they said this. In the 21st century.
Now, of course the Governors of Illinois, Texas, Louisiana, and most of the other states that are scared of ISIS are Republicans.
And, because it is a federal matter, they are overstepping their powers with executive orders, because they cannot actually stop refugees from resettling in their states.
Instead they have instructed state agencies not to assist people fleeing terror.
We are a better country than that.
No matter how scared Republican leaders become, we must not abandon our commitment to being a nation without equal in the world; a nation that does not fear or shy away from any challenge.
It is our commitment to religious equality and the freedom to worship-as-we-please that has made us a great nation and this is no time to abandon it.
Our bravery, the bravery of our military, and the bravery of our commitment to freedom and equality have shown — for almost 250 years — what American exceptionalism is all about.
It is not the time to lose sight of ourselves and say America is too weak; America cannot handle 20,000 or 200,000 refugees fleeing for their lives.
It is not the time for America to consider raising the white flag and say to those waiving the black flag, “Yes ISIS, you are right, we dislike and fear Muslims and do not care if they perish or not.”
A lot of us love this country too much to see it abandon core principles and values because religious extremists commit acts of terror designed precisely to terrorize us.
On Thursday, the Immigration Subcommittee will hold a hearing on refugees from Syria and the Middle East.
You can already imagine what we will hear.
Republicans will most likely raise fears that Muslim terrorists, disguised as refugees, would somehow pass exhaustive criminal background checks because they have been lying in wait in these camps overseas for years on the slim chance they could do damage to America.
They will raise suspicion, instill fear of Muslims, maybe even fear of a President they say is a Muslim, and it will probably be a pretty sad display.
Let us, as legislators, leaders and patriots, rise above petty politics, rise above sectarian fears, rise above the underlying layer of xenophobia that often surfaces in this country at moments like this throughout our history.
And let us maintain America’s commitment to being a beacon of hope for those fleeing oppression, violence, and intolerance.
A haven for the religiously persecuted, whether they are Buddhists from Tibet, Christians from Iran, or Pilgrims from Europe.
That is who we are.
We are a nation that lives by the motto E Pluribus Unum – “out of many, one” – and we will not run in fear from that motto today or any day.