When U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez chose not to seek reelection in 2018, he donated his Congressional archives to Northeastern Illinois University. The Luis V. Gutiérrez Congressional Archives, which contain 41 linear feet of documents, awards, letters and other paraphernalia, is now available for online viewing.
Dean of NEIU Libraries Steven Harris said the Gutiérrez archives exemplify the former Congressman’s progressive political agenda and mirror values that are emblematic of an NEIU graduate.
“The collection is important because it documents the activities, methods and philosophy of one the longest-serving Latino representatives in U.S. history,” Harris said. “Students and scholars of American politics will be interested in using this archive to research many aspects of politics and governance, especially consumer protection, workers' rights, and immigration reform.”
The archive was originally meant to be accessed only in person, but the library staff modified its plan after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the public could access the Gutiérrez archive this year as originally planned. The Illinois State Historical Records Advisory Board Historical Records Grant Program also awarded Northeastern Illinois University a $5,000 grant to digitize the archive. The award is the highest amount a project can receive.
According to the National Archives, Northeastern is one of only five colleges or universities in Illinois that currently house congressional collections. The rarity of a college or university housing these collections highlights the significance that the Gutiérrez Congressional Archives will have for the school as well as public researchers.
“This important collection launches us into a new and more ambitious direction for the NEIU Libraries,” Harris said. “There are many libraries and museums around the country that hold the personal papers of U.S. senators and representatives, but it's a pretty elite company.”
Gutiérrez earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Northeastern in 1976. Northeastern awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in May 2018 in recognition of his many accomplishments, most notably his role in advocating for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Gutiérrez served the 4th Congressional district of Illinois for 12 terms and previously served the City of Chicago as an alderman.
“I hope, in these archives, people can come and see that the life and the times of Luis Gutiérrez in the Congress of the United States have been focused on labor and immigration,” Gutiérrez said at the 2018 archive donation ceremony held at the Ronald Williams Library. “Immigration is an issue that brings people together; it’s social justice and equality and fighting discrimination and bigotry and fighting prejudice.”