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The rich anecdotes in this book show a political sophisticate who likes to get results. We see him being tough and loud, or pitiful and wheedling, whichever is likelier win the day. Be it noted, too, that the “immigrants’ rights agitator” sometimes lodges demands that overreach on purpose.

The tactic served him well in Chicago going toe to toe with Richard and Bill Daley. The then-mayor and his brother, rejecting what was outlandish, felt obliged to accept everything else Mr. Gutierrez wanted. The point is that in Washington, inside the councils of government, his fellow lawmakers may well see a cooler customer than the firebrand lately shown on television getting himself arrested at the Capitol to underscore the ill treatment of immigrants.

If the endless talks on immigration legislation come to a head, keep your eye on Mr. Gutierrez. He is “still dreaming” while also remaining extremely alert.

Freelance writer Lauren Weiner, a Chicago native, lives in Baltimore.