Guti?rez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, said Republicans in Congress must accept the changing demographics in the United States, and that every day 2,000 U.S. Latinos reach voting age.
"I know some of you are thinking, 'How many of them are citizens?'" he said. "I'm only talking about citizens turning 18 every day. And they turn 18 angry, angry at a party that denies their family members."
Many of the people attending the event were moved by Guti?rez's speech, during which he challenged local Latinos to continue working for a resolution to the nation's immigration problems. He said families and communities are being torn apart by inaction in Congress.
"The Senate passed the bill last June — 300,000 people have been deported since the Senate passed the bill," he said, adding that some of those who have been forced to leave the country are the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants who have left to be with their parents.
A number of those who attended the gathering said Guti?rez's speech motivated them to take up immigration as a political cause once more.
"He put it back into perspective. These are our families, our relatives," said Omar Medina, a member of the Sonoma County chapter of the Service Employees International Union.
He said Guti?rez "reinvigorated my passion and motivation to get something done on immigration reform."
Jenny Chamberlain, a member of the Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights, said issues that affect immigrants are still important to her even though her family has been in the United States for five generations.
"It doesn't matter if I came here last year or if I've been here five generations. I'm still Mexican, I'm still Latina," she said. "It doesn't mean I haven't faced discrimination."
Thompson echoed Guti?rez's political warning to Republicans.
"It's reprehensible that they're preventing the American people from having a vote on an issue that is so important," Thompson said.
"If we don't do immigration reform, I think it will be the end of the Republican party nationally."
(You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)