(In this photo taken Oct. 13, 2009, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., speaks at a rally for immigration reform on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File))

Gutierrez: House has enough votes for immigration reform: “Now we need to get it done”

Illinois Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez, one of the seven House members working on a bipartisan immigration reform proposal, spoke before the National Council of La Raza’s (NCLR‘s) immigration town hall during the organization’s annual convention, saying he believes the House has enough legislators to support a reform bill.

“We found the 50 Republicans needed to pass immigration reform, now we need to get it done,” said Gutierrez. The Congressman urged Boehner to let this group of Republicans join Democrats and not insist on a majority support for reform, like he is insisting on.

While answering a direct question, Gutierrez revealed a facet of the House immigration bill. He said there will be a payment plan set for immigrants applying for a green card. While he said he never suggested a special pathway to citizenship, he said he has suggested one that is earned.

“I also believe in the generosity of our community,” Gutierrez said. “I don’t want people to be here temporarily. I want people to have the same responsibilities and obligations that I have as a citizen.”

Congressman Gutierrez then joined a panel with Republican strategist Ana Navarro; The Alaska Federation of Natives President, Julie Kitka; Evangelical immigration activist and VP of World Relief, Jenny Yang; and VP of National Association of Manufacturers, Joe Trauger. NCLR’s own Clarissa Martinez de Castro moderated the town hall.

“The key thing is you have to have the full range of legal rights,” Martinez de Castro said. “If you accept less than full legal rights, you’re automatically a second-class citizen.”

Navarro pointed out some Republicans in the House fear that if immigration reform passes and 11 million people become citizens that will result in 11 million more Democrats.

“Both parties will have to earn our votes,” she said. “I think it’s important to look past this misconception.”

Jenny Yang, a prominent religious advocate for immigration reform, pushed Evangelicals to embrace immigrants and immigration reform.

“The Bible is very clear about the treatment of immigrants,” Yang said. “We have to do something to bring these people who we worship with out of the shadows.”

Kitka closed the town hall, asking people of all backgrounds to come together for immigration reform because she knows first-hand what it’s like to be a second-class citizen.

“We are all in this together and we must ensure everybody has adequate legal rights,” she said. “We cannot go forward with 11 million people without the rights this country is based on. We really do welcome the new Americans, it will make our country a lot richer and the culture strong.”

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