This Latino congressman should have asked Santa for a new set of manners
Ever wonder what members of Congress get for Christmas?
I hope that Luis Gutierrez got a new set of manners. Because, based on how he conducted himself at a hearing a few days before the holiday, he doesn't have any.
The Democratic representative from Chicago played Scrooge during a grilling of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen over the administration's treatment of refugees.
For what it's worth, as a Mexican-American, I'm usually more in sync with Gutierrez than Nielsen. About a decade ago, I applauded when the congressman got arrested outside the White House protesting President Obama's deportation juggernaut and then toured immigrant communities devastated by the administration's enforcement policies. And I'm aghast that Nielsen -- who's had a rocky relationship with President Donald Trump -- responded to the recent and tragic deaths of young children in Border Patrol custody by coldly citing the "consequences" of parents taking their kids across the U.S.-Mexico border.
But this isn't about politics. It's about politeness. And, as a journalist, it's my job to call Gutierrez on the carpet for what was really a disgraceful performance.
At best, these kinds of exchanges between political leaders should make you think. This one will make you wince.
Gutierrez began a six-minute screed by saying that Nielsen had come before the House Judiciary Committee to appear "tough and remorseless" just in time for Christmas. He then referenced her shaky tenure at the Homeland Security Department and snarked that she might not have a job in a few weeks.
Then he catapulted into a wider attack on the administration, which he claimed had set a new standard for lying to the American people about immigration.
That was saying something given how deceitful the Obama administration was on the subject. Like when Obama claimed that most of the people being deported were "gangbangers" and other criminals, only to be proven wrong.
Gutierrez wrapped up his verbal assault on Nielsen with a visit to Crazytown, claiming that a Trump-like border wall would have kept the baby Jesus from seeking refuge in Egypt.
About the only thing of value that Gutierrez had to offer was when he called out Nielsen for lying when she claimed, in a tweet, that her department did not have a policy of separating families. Of course, various members of the administration -- including Nielsen herself -- have defended the same policy she claimed didn't exist.
By the time Nielsen got to defend herself, she had a lot to defend.
The Homeland Security secretary insisted that calling her a liar amounted to "fighting words" and she reiterated the ludicrous claim that the administration does not have a "policy" of family separation.
Not to get too Clintonesque, but it turns out that the whole argument hinges on the definition of the word "policy." Nielsen seemed to be saying that, while it may be the practice to separate some families, it is not a full-blown policy. That's because the practice is not uniformly applied to every single immigrant family that the Homeland Security Department comes into contact with -- whether at the border or within the interior.
So are we to believe that the fact that the administration discriminates against families from Central America puts it in the clear?
Within seconds of Nielsen's hair-splitting, Gutierrez apparently decided that he had heard enough. And that's when he crossed the line. He scoffed, turned away and walked out of the committee room. That is as rude as it gets.
Nielsen had listened politely as he insulted her time and again, but he couldn't show her the same courtesy.
We tell our children that they should never behave like this, and that they should respect even those people they disagree with.
But that sermon would really benefit our elected officials, who are often so full of themselves that there is no room for them to take in another point of view.
Besides, Gutierrez has a special responsibility to conduct himself in a dignified manner. As one of the relatively few members of Congress who are Latino, Gutierrez is supposed to represent me and people like me. And by letting his ego get the better of him, he let us all down.
Consider the times. Latinos are treated as inferior, discriminated against and accused of ruining the country we love. For America's largest minority, these are hard days. We don't need those who are supposed to have our back to make them any harder.
Ruben Navarrette's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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