Monday, Feb. 8, 2016 | 2:31 p.m.
Two weeks before the Nevada caucuses, the Culinary Union is ramping up efforts on a massive citizenship drive while trying to stay out of the battle between Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The union hosted Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez — a vocal advocate for helping immigrants become U.S. citizens — at its Las Vegas headquarters today.
But the union — which has said it won’t make an endorsement in the presidential caucuses — can’t entirely avoid the campaigns. Gutierrez is also a surrogate for Clinton, the former secretary of state, and the union was his first of three campaign stops today.
Gutierrez has long been a supporter of the Culinary Union and frequently comes to events at its headquarters in Las Vegas, said the union’s secretary-treasurer, Geoconda Arguello-Kline.
Gutierrez acknowledged his dual role in speaking to a group of the union’s citizenship drive organizers.
“Now I know the Culinary Workers Union hasn’t made an endorsement in the presidential campaign, but I’m doing a couple of things here today,” Gutierrez said. “I’m meeting here with you, and I’m campaigning for Hillary Clinton. I want to tell you it really does coincide with what you’re doing.”
The Culinary Union aims to help 2,500 people apply for citizenship by June — enough time for them to go through the naturalization process and register to vote before the November general election.
It also plans to register 12,000 people to vote before November.
Gutierrez told the union members that Clinton’s plans for immigration lined up with their goals in their citizenship drive.
Congressional candidate State. Sen Ruben Kihuen, another Clinton supporter, was initially listed as an attendee of the meeting with Gutierrez, but he didn’t make it because of a conflict. The union endorsed Kihuen in his congressional bid last week.
The union will continue to have “open doors” for all candidates and campaigns, Arguello-Kline said.
“We’ve been inviting everybody,” Argeullo-Kline said, noting that Sanders, Clinton and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley have all appeared at union events. “Open doors — they’re more than welcome.”
Gutierrez said he wished the Clinton campaign had the union’s support, but he felt confident the Latino community would turn out for Clinton even without it.
“One motivating factor for people is if they feel under attack, if they feel threatened. And Donald Trump has made our community feel threatened,” Gutierrez said in an interview. “That’s why I know the participation level is going to be higher, regardless of who comes out here.”