Luis Gutierrez launches nationwide effort to increase number of naturalized citizens

Former U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez is launching a new effort called Our Nation’s Future, with the goal of helping 1 million permanent residents become naturalized citizens within four years.

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Former U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez speaks Friday about the launch of Our Nation’s Future at the Union League Club of Chicago in the Loop.

Former U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez speaks Friday about the launch of Our Nation’s Future at the Union League Club of Chicago in the Loop.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Former U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez dreamed of retiring in Puerto Rico after leaving Congress — but it turned out to be a short-lived plan.

Instead, he’s returned to Chicago to launch a new nationwide effort to help immigrants become naturalized citizens.

“I’m coming out of retirement, and I’m launching ‘Our Nation’s Future’ to fix our broken immigration system,” Gutierrez said Friday in remarks at the Union League Club. “Our work for America, for immigrants and the character of our great nation is not done. Our economic success depends on an immigration system that is as dependable as the immigrants are.”

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The group’s goal is to help 1 million permanent residents, commonly known as green card holders, become naturalized citizens and U.S. voters in the next four years, Gutierrez said.

While his home will remain in Chicago, Gutierrez said he will travel across the country to hold immigration workshops in states where new voters can be “transformative” in upcoming elections. The group won’t provide direct financial assistance to immigrants but will help them fill out forms to waive fees associated with the process if eligible.

Director of American Business Immigration Coalition Rebecca Shi speaks Friday at the Union League Club.

Director of American Business Immigration Coalition Rebecca Shi speaks Friday at the Union League Club.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Rebecca Shi, executive director of the American Business Immigration Coalition, supports Gutierrez’s new effort, because she thinks more immigrant workers will help with current inflation issues.

“We also know that federal immigration reform is the answer,” Shi said. “That this will bring more workers to the pipeline and strengthen our supply chain and will reduce prices for all.”

Activists in Chicago were among those who last year pushed for federal immigration reform that never came to fruition. Community organizers in Chicago at one point protested outside of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s home during their efforts.

Durbin said he’s still pushing for immigration reform but knows it will require negotiations with Republicans, along with changes to the southern U.S. border.

“I have colleagues of mine who I respect very much and like very much who say when it comes to immigration, it’s all or nothing,” Durbin said Friday at the event. “With that approach, we’ve come up with nothing for 30 years, and sadly a lot of people are suffering because of it. I want to get as much as possible along the lines of comprehensive immigration reform.”

Former U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez greets U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin Friday at the Union League Club of Chicago.

Former U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez greets U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin Friday at the Union League Club of Chicago where they discussed immigration reform, including Gutierrez’s new effort to help more than 1 million green card holders become U.S. citizens.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.

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