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Immigration reform poised to succeed, Emanuel, Gutierrez say

NaturalizatiCeremony City Council Chambers for 50 residents from 26 countries hosted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel Congressman Luis Gutierrez Tuesday

Naturalization Ceremony in City Council Chambers for 50 residents from 26 countries, hosted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Tuesday, November 27, 2012. l John H. White ~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 29, 2012 6:20AM

Rahm Emanuel was once branded the primary roadblock standing in the way of immigration reform, but on Tuesday, Chicago’s mayor was more like the lead blocker for a political drive he described as “on the 10-yard line” and poised to score a touchdown.

At a moving swearing-in ceremony for 50 new citizens in the City Council chambers, Emanuel credited his former political nemesis, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), with getting immigration reform to the political red zone.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle are now talking about delivering comprehensive immigration reform — for the first time since 1988 — to reward the political muscle of Hispanic voters who helped seal President Barack Obama’s re-election.

“You can see now post the presidential election that the rest of America has caught up with Luis Gutierrez. Thank you for blazing that path,” Emanuel said. “If you study politics, you can see how the sands have shifted. The winds have shifted their drift. And now, Luis Gutierrez is literally on the 10-yard line of bringing America true to its ideals.”

Does Gutierrez believe he’s on the 10-yard line?

“I hope so. It feels like it. . . .
This election demonstrated that, when I spoke about the need for justice and fairness for immigrants that — whether you’re in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Florida, California, Chicago or New York — your response was the same. It makes it much easier to have a dialogue,” he said.

“We have fiscal cliff, which the president is gonna be dealing with in the lame-duck session,” Gutierrez said. “After we deal with
the fiscal cliff, there may be some other actions that need to be taken in January. But I don’t see why we can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.”

Tuesday’s ceremony was yet another opportunity for Emanuel and Gutierrez to show that they have buried the political hatchet.

During Emanuel’s days as Obama’s chief of staff, Gutierrez accused Emanuel of standing in the way of immigration reform and being singularly responsible for Obama’s failure to deliver on his campaign promise to Hispanics.

Gutierrez retaliated by endorsing mayoral candidate Gery Chico over Emanuel.

“He and I decided to take the chalkboard, take an eraser to it and start fresh,” Gutierrez said Tuesday. “The criticism that I meted out before to him was at that particular moment. . . .
I saw Congressman [and then White House Chief of Staff] Rahm Emanuel. Now, I see Mayor Rahm Emanuel. And Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a friend who helps me and helps our immigrant community in many ways.”

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