Recently, Delegate Candidate Rick Kessler (D-18) raised questions about Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez’s decision to travel to El Salvador during the session. CASA Director Gustavo Torres issued this statement in response:
I was extremely disturbed to recently learn that a candidate for state office in the 18th district has chosen to attack Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez for a trip she made to El Salvador during the past legislative session. Rick Kessler’s willingness to engage in this type of thinly-disguised race-baiting reveals that he is not the right representative for any district, let alone one as diverse as the 18th.
To recap, Delegate Sol Gutierrez missed two days of session in order to fly over a weekend to El Salvador and participate as an Official International Observer of the Salvadoran Presidential election. She traveled at the formal invitation of the Salvadoran National Assembly, an invitation that Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch not only approved but described as “an honor.” Legislators miss floor votes and committee hearings all the time due to illness, family emergencies, personal business, and to attend special events. It is hard to imagine an event more important than participating in a historic election for progressive change in a country whose past civil conflict has driven so much immigration to our region and whose leadership impacts so many close relatives of district residents. It seems an odd posture particularly for someone that is actually running for elected office and, we would assume, a believer in the importance of political participation.
I believe that the real purpose of these complaints is to surface that Delegate Sol Gutierrez remains engaged in her country of birth and to imply that this engagement somehow lowers her commitment to this country – one she is so dedicated to that she has chosen to dedicate 20 years to the unusually grueling life path of public service including, for the past 12 years, representing her home district in the Maryland House of Delegates. During the early 20th century, immigrants to the United States were frequently attacked for their continued affiliation with their country of origin and these arguments were used to support profiling, red-lining, and exclusion from political engagement. Reading the Bethesda Now piece, I was reminded once again how very far we have to go. As an organization whose very purpose is to engage immigrants in the political process, leaders like Delegate Gutierrez show that our responsibility is global, our lives cross borders, and our kids can strive to achieve extraordinary triumphs in a multicultural world. While it is certainly true that not everyone in the 18th District has immigrated to this country, we believe that most of its residents honor diversity, celebrate immigration, and appreciate open cultural and civic engagement, here and abroad.
In closing, while it is true that CASA in Action has endorsed Delegate Sol Gutierrez as well as three additional candidates for delegate, I have not chosen to address this issue because of that support. Regardless of who you support, our community is better than the types of attacks that Mr. Kessler has chosen to engage in.