- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Stung by President Obama’s on-again, off-again attitude on immigration, one prominent activist is launching a Draft Gutierrez petition designed to convince Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, to run for president in 2016 as an independent.

The Rev. Emma Lozano, who founded Centro Sin Fronteras in Chicago and has a long history with Mr. Obama on immigration, said they are giving the president until Thanksgiving to take unilateral action halting deportations, and then they will rally.

“We will march and run our own Latino independent candidate for president of the United States,” she said in an email announcing her plans to her network of supporters.

She is circulating a Draft Gutierrez petition form she is asking activists to bring to the polls next month in order to get signatures showing support for Mr. Gutierrez to run as an independent.

Mr. Gutierrez has served 11 terms in Congress as a Democrat, where he’s made immigration his top issue, pushing for a new legalization program and earning a dedicated following from Hispanic activists.

Douglas Rivlin, a spokesman for Mr. Gutierrez, said his boss isn’t interested in a promotion to the White House.

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“The congressman is not running for president but he is flattered by the thought expressed in the petition,” Mr. Rivlin said, adding that Mr. Gutierrez is focused on preparing immigrants to take advantage of whatever announcement Mr. Obama ends up making later this year.

Still, Mr. Rivlin said Democrats have a challenge with voters.

“The petition grows out of the anger, the frustration and the anxiety in the immigrant community that he hears whenever he travels and talks to Latino citizens and immigrants who aspire to citizenship,” Mr. Rivlin said. “On the immigration issue people want to know the Democrats have their backs and are more than just ‘not Republicans’ on immigration.”

Ms. Lozano said she’s not giving Mr. Gutierrez an option.

“We’re obligating him to run, we’re not asking him,” she told The Washington Times. “We’re in a war and when you’re in a war you fight. We’re drafting him.”

Ms. Lozano has a long history with immigration, including helping arrange sanctuary for Elvira Arellano, whom the federal government was fighting to deport. She also has battled Mr. Obama since his days in Chicago, and she says he and his fellow Democrats need to be wary of losing Latino electoral support.

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“The Latino vote is going to be down this election because they’ve just beaten us down,” she said. “There’s no reason to go out there and vote for anyone.”

Still, she said she’s telling people to register and try to find individual candidates such as Mr. Gutierrez who are working on the issue.

Mr. Obama promised during his 2008 campaign to sign an immigration bill legalizing illegal immigrants in his first year in office, but instead turned his attention to health care, the economic stimulus and global warming.

Heading into the 2012 election, and facing lethargy among Hispanic voters, he vowed to try again on legislation — but also took unilateral action, granting tentative legal status to young adult illegal immigrants known as dreamers, in a policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. For years he had denied he had that authority.

Following re-election, he vowed to try again to win a bill in Congress, but again denied he had power to halt deportations more broadly. After House Republicans said they wouldn’t act, Mr. Obama reversed himself and said he does have authority, and vowed to act by the end of the summer. But as the summer ended, Mr. Obama said he would delay once again, until after November’s elections, fearing that his moves would be unpopular.

Ms. Lozano said Mr. Obama has been a disappointment.

“All we got was DACA for a few dreamers, and that’s not enough,” she said.

For his part Mr. Gutierrez has said he expects Mr. Obama to follow through on his promise to act between the election and the end of the year, saying it will be a good Christmas present for immigrants who could gain tentative legal status.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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