Email #76, Subject: “dictatorial shenanigans”?

I was disturbed to read that you prevented Rep. Luis Gutiérrez from meeting with the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. If I understand correctly, Mr. Gutiérrez was asked to leave by your staffers, even though he was the one who requested the meeting? The ICE director was originally going to meet with Mr. Gutiérrez and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, but cancelled. The meeting was then rescheduled with you running it and Mr. Gutiérrez and eight other Democrats barred from attending. You then announced that all future meetings with the ICE would have to be cleared by you first.

Mr. Gutiérrez stated afterwards:

“In 20-plus years, I have never heard of the Republicans controlling what meetings Democrats can have with officials of the Executive Branch and never had a staffer ask me to leave a meeting to which I am entitled to attend.  … The new mass deportation executive orders are unprecedented, but so are the lengths to which the Speaker and Chairman Goodlatte are going to control the information being disseminated to Members of Congress.  I expect such dictatorial shenanigans from the Trump Administration, but not from competent, compassionate legislators like Speaker Ryan or from legislators like Bob Goodlatte.”

Mr. Gutiérrez is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees immigration policy in the House, and a member of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, as well as the Chairman of the CHC Taskforce on Immigration. Who better to meet with ICE? On what grounds are you excluding him? Although you chair the House Judiciary Committee and so oversee immigration policy in the House, you are not a member of the executive branch and so cannot give orders to ICE. The ICE director does not need your permission to schedule meetings. Your assuming that authority violates the Constitution’s three-branch system.

It would appear that you are excluding Mr. Gutiérrez solely because he is not a member of the Republican party. If so, this is a disturbing abuse of your power and a further erosion of the democratic norms of our government. If I have misunderstood the facts of the situation or the explanation for your behavior, please correct me immediately. Otherwise, your Virginia constituents, as well as Americans in general, deserve an apology.

And Rep. Gutiérrez deserves his meeting.

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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