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Reps. Mike Thompson, Luis Gutierrez: Time to act on immigration (w/ video)

  • U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, right, with Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, addresses attendees of Thompson's annual Connecting Latino Voices event Saturday at Chateau St. Jean Winery and Vineyards in Kenwood. (Erik Castro / For The Press Democrat)

Standing on the steps of an outdoor patio of the Chateau St. Jean winery in Kenwood on Saturday evening, Congressmen Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, and Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois challenged Republicans in Congress to bring the bipartisan immigration bill to a vote or risk losing more elections in the future.

In a speech laced with emotion and personal stories, Gutiérrez, a leading proponent of the bill, made a case for a floor vote this summer. The bill, which cleared the Senate last year and is stalled in the GOP-controlled House, has enough votes to get to President Barack Obama's desk, Gutiérrez said.

“What Republicans have to understand is that there was a referendum in 2012,” Gutiérrez said. “They are going to become a party of regions and states and localities if they don't deal with the issue of comprehensive immigration reform today.”

Gutiérrez was speaking to a group of North Coast Latino leaders brought together by Thompson, who is up for re-election and is seeking his ninth term in Congress. The gathering, billed as Connecting Latino Voices, was the fifth such political outreach event Thompson has sponsored. Held yearly, it alternates between Napa and Sonoma counties.

Gutiérrez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, said Republicans in Congress must accept the changing demographics in the United States, and that every day 2,000 U.S. Latinos reach voting age.

“I know some of you are thinking, 'How many of them are citizens?'” he said. “I'm only talking about citizens turning 18 every day. And they turn 18 angry, angry at a party that denies their family members.”

Many of the people attending the event were moved by Gutiérrez's speech, during which he challenged local Latinos to continue working for a resolution to the nation's immigration problems. He said families and communities are being torn apart by inaction in Congress.

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