Had the chance yesterday to meet former U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, whose life provides a remarkable story of the opportunity America offers if we don’t lose our way. Born in Cuba, his family fled to the United States from a Castro regime that was intent on making everyone equal by taking from anyone who had achieved success. Carlos was six at the time and spoke no English. He began working for Kellogg’s at the age of 22 and worked his way up the management ranks to become its chairman and CEO.
In 2004, Carlos became Secretary of Commerce under President Bush and led the President’s effort to secure comprehensive immigration reform. During that work, he saw firsthand how much immigration is tied up in partisan politics, watching Democrats and union officials work to shut down immigration reform so Bush and Republicans would not get credit for fixing what everyone involved knows is a badly broken system. Though the presidential leadership tables have turned, Secretary Gutierrez remains as committed as ever to ensuring that the United States has a properly functioning immigration system and today volunteers his time leading Republicans for Immigration Reform.
So, all of this background as a way of saying I hope that Carlos Gutierrez succeeds in his efforts to explain the value of immigration, the substantial fixes needed in our badly broken system and the value of building a common culture where we don’t allow ourselves to be segregated by race, ethnicity or language for political party advantage. Though a bipartisan compromise seems possible now, we’ve all seen countless times where gaining partisan advantage took precedence over solving real problems.
I also hope that Carlos succeeds in being a spokesman for the Republican Party so we can stop hearing drivel from the likes of Don Young who have not yet realized that America’s future prosperity depends on a well-functioning legal immigration system (Young also apparently does not understand that some words are just offensive).
Today’s system is badly broken. The biggest impediment to fixing it is partisan politics. It will take leadership from key figures in both parties to make this happen. At least as far as I can tell, Carlos Gutierrez is the type of man who can make a real difference and is committed to doing so.