Latino leaders criticize Emanuel on immigration

January 14, 2011 4:26:42 PM PST
For the first time, Rahm Emanuel squared off against the other three major candidates in the race for mayor of Chicago. And the other three were ready to throw their punches.

Friday's forum was a meeting with the Chicago Tribune editorial board.

Not only was Emanuel's weakness among Latino politicians laid bare, he also took a frontrunner's beating at the debate, which was closed to the press.

As the four candidates left the Tribune tower, three of them agreed that Emanuel deserved to be a target.

"He hasn't faced the communities and neighborhoods across the city. He basically has had a Rose Garden strategy," said Miguel del Valle, candidate for mayor.

Part of the focus was on Emanuel's alleged reputation as a political brute.

"A lot of people have expressed to me that they are worried about such a brutish reputation being in the mayor's office of Chicago," said Gery Chico, candidate for mayor.

"Temperament is a very important thing. If you're sending dead fish to people, I mean, come on," said Carol Moseley Braun, candidate for mayor.

But the former White House chief of staff said his opponents' attacks should be focused elsewhere.

"Let's attack the problems facing the city of Chicago. I think the public will make an evaluation of who is the best candidate with the best ideas and the strength of character to see through the changes that are necessary for our city," said Emanuel.

Emanuel took the biggest hit of the day an hour later when Congressmen Luis Gutierrez and Bobby Rush were joined by some of the most powerful Latino politicians in the city, county and state. They condemned Emanuel's record on immigration reform.

"As a member of Congress and as chief of staff in the White House, he took actions to harm immigrants," said Gutierrez.

On Thursday, Emanuel offered what he called a local version of the Dream Act to help the children of undocumented immigrants. He said his record on immigration is the same as Gutierrez.

"As a congressman, about half my work was immigration reform. I voted just like Luis Gutierrez," said Emanuel.

But Gutierrez angrily disagreed, displaying a letter he wrote to Emanuel last month demanding the candidate stop deceiving Chicago voters.

"The whole story is that as a leading member of Congress and as chief of staff of the White House, Rahm has not stood up for immigrants," said Gutierrez.

Emanuel, the son of an Israeli immigrant, said those he served in Congress know the truth.

"I also helped, as a congressman, people who are stuck in the bureaucracy of the system get their citizenship," said Emanuel.

Congressman Gutierrez is supporting Gery Chicago for Chicago mayor. But the disagreement with Emanuel over immigration reform goes back several years.

Early on in the campaign, Emanuel claimed the support of Juan Rangel, the Latino leader of the United Neighborhood Organization. Since then, however, Latino political leaders have thrown their support to other candidates.