Among a bevy of Democrat responses to the State of the Union address Tuesday night, one Illinois lawmaker had particularly harsh and accusatory words for President Donald Trump.
“Even though I disagreed with almost everything he said, for Trump, the speech was clear and well-delivered,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez said in a statement. “Whoever translated it for him from Russian did a good job.”
The investigation into whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives during the 2016 campaign has cast a shadow over the first year of his presidency. The president has vehemently denied any Russian involvement in his campaign, but it wasn’t the only issue the congressman brought up.
Trump riffed on the debate over immigration, weaving stats and anecdotes throughout the address, all while boasting of economic growth and the general optimism of what he called "the new American moment."
"My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans -- to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American Dream," Trump said. "Because Americans are dreamers too."
Gutierrez, a prominent national voice for immigrant rights, said he did not believe Congress and Trump would ever come to an agreement that would allow Dreamers--those brought to the country illegally as children--to stay in the United States.
“The speech did nothing to bring the pro- and anti-immigrant sides closer together,” Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez, who has been highly critical of the administration’s response to Hurricane Maria, also said he had hoped for “some sort of apology on Puerto Rico.”
“Puerto Rico is a metaphor for how this President sees all Latinos and people of color: he does not see us as his equals and he does not see us as fellow human beings,” Gutierrez said. “If you look at how the President has treated Puerto Rico, you have to conclude that he just doesn’t care and probably thinks of Puerto Rico as just another (sh—hole) country.”
The congressman noted he grew up in a time of racial segregation and was proud to see the progress the United States has made since those days.
“I was hoping to get through my life without having to witness an outwardly, explicitly racist American President, but my luck ran out,” he said.
Gutierrez, who announced in November he would not seek re-election next year, wasn't the only Democrat to take issue with the speech.
Rep. Brad Schneider, another Illinois Democrat, said in his own statement he would judge Trump not by the words in his speech Tuesday night but by the president’s actions in the future.
Schneider said he agreed with some of the issues Trump homed in on, like investing in infrastructure. He said “ending family reunification,” however, was something he strongly disagreed with.
“In his first year in office, President Trump has also created his own crises, both through short-sighted decisions such as rescinding DACA and withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, and through a disrespect for the responsibilities of the office he occupies, including his comments about immigrants, attacks on a free press, and bellicose handling of potential conflict with North Korea,” Schneider said. “I hope in the year ahead he proves more willing to put the national interest first. Where he falls short, I will continue to hold him and his Administration accountable.”
Democratic Rep. Bill Foster said he was disappointed in the address, saying the president has failed to unite the country.
“I am ready and willing to work with my Republican colleagues to rebuild and repair our infrastructure, grow our economy, and combat the opioid epidemic,” Foster said. “But I did not hear the President discuss how he would achieve these goals without burdening our children with future debt. I was also disappointed to hear the President discuss the construction of a wall on our southern border.”
That money, Foster said, should be invested in education, scientific research, and an infrastructure plan.
Three other Illinois Democrats boycotted the State of the Union: Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Danny Davis and Bobby Rush. Others, like Sen. Tammy Duckworth, wore black in solidarity with the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements.