POLITICS

Rep. Gutierrez recounts how he was ethnically profiled by Capitol Hill security early in career

Rep. Gutierrez during a news conference July 11, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Rep. Gutierrez during a news conference July 11, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.  (2014 Getty Images)

In his testimony before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday on civil rights, Rep. Luis Gutierrez wanted to make a point about how minorities so often are arbitrarily subjected to profiling.

For an example, he reached into his own life, according to Roll Call.

The Illinois Democrat spoke about how he was profiled right on the steps of the Capitol when he was in his fourth year in Congress, in 1996.

“I was stopped and refused admission to this very Capitol complex earlier in my career because, as the Capitol Hill police officer said, ‘I didn’t look like a congressman,’” he said, according to Roll Call.

“Too many have faced profiling, subtle and explicit, annoying, — and yes, potentially dangerous — when the profiler has a badge or has a gun,” he said.

Gutierrez has recounted the incident other times to point out how even being a U.S. lawmaker doesn’t protect a person from bigotry. Gutierrez described it in his 2013 memoir, “Still Dreaming: My Journey from the Barrio to Capitol Hill.”

The tense exchange with the security aide made headlines when it happened.

A Capitol Hill security aide grew upset when she saw two small unfurled Puerto Rican flags that Gutierrez’s then-teenage daughter and niece were carrying – they’d taken them to a ceremony for Puerto Rican veterans of the Korean Army – and yelled the congressman and girls to put them away.

When Gutierrez tried to diffuse the situation, the aide demanded to know who he was, and scoffed when he told her he was “Congressman Gutierrez.”

Gutierrez, who was born in Chicago and whose family is from Puerto Rico, recounted how the aide, Stacia Hollingsworth, responded: “I don’t think so.”

Even when he displayed his congressional identification card, Hollingsworth “said that my identification must have been a fake,” Gutierrez said at the time, according to Roll Call.

“Then she said, `Why don’t you all go back to the country where you came from.’ She was rabidly angry.”

Hollingsworth was put on leave and assigned to sensitivity training.

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