Latino Lawmakers Agree With Obama: ICE ‘Terrorized’ American Communities

By Josiah Ryan | July 30, 2008 | 4:49 AM EDT

( – Latino lawmakers participating in a Democratic National Committee (DNC) press conference on Tuesday told that they agreed with Sen. Barack Obama's comment earlier this month that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “terrorized” American communities.
Frank Sanchez, who is the national chairman of the Obama for America National Hispanic Leadership Council, told, however, not to read too much into Obama's remark.
As reported on July 15, Obama told the national convention of the National Council of La Raza that ICE, which is the federal agency responsible for enforcing U.S. immigration laws, “terrorized” American communities.
“The system isn't working,” Obama told La Raza, “when 12 million people live in hiding, and hundreds of thousands cross our borders illegally each year; when companies hire undocumented immigrants instead of legal citizens to avoid paying overtime or to avoid a union; when communities are terrorized by ICE immigration raids; when nursing mothers are torn from their babies; when children come home from school to find their parents missing; when people are detained without access to legal counsel.”
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) told that he believes Obama was correct about ICE’s conduct.
“Yeah, I agree that ICE has taken the issue of internal enforcement to the point that, as we have seen, there is no due process,” said Grijalva, when asked whether he agreed with Obama that "communities are terrorized by ICE immigration raids.’”
“When there is no real push on the employers in terms of where they are part of the big problem and there is no real prosecution of that element, ICE needs to understand that part of the enforcement process also requires that we maintain some level of respect for due process and laws we have in place.”
Grijalva cited as an example of ICE’s abuses a May 12th raid on an Iowa meat-packing plant that resulted in ICE agents arresting 389 allegedly undocumented workers most of whom were from Latin America.
Rep. Jose Serrano, (D-N.Y.) told that he also agrees with Obama’s comment. He said the main difference between Republicans and Democrats on immigration reform comes down to the “meanness” factor.
“Oh yeah,” said Serrano, when asked him if agrees that ICE “terrorized” communities. “What is different about Obama’s and the Democrats’ approach to immigration reform?  The end result may not be everything a liberal like me wants, but the meanness factor is what is so important.”
“Obama and the Democrats don’t say ‘those people,’ ‘that group of people,’ ‘they take jobs away from us,’ ‘what are they doing here.’ You’re not going to hear that from Obama,” said Serrano. “You hear that from Republicans and their talk show buddies. They make them [Hispanics] responsible for everything that is wrong with the country when in many cases, immigrants may be the solutions to many of the problems of the country.”
Sanchez, who runs the Hispanic outreach for Obama’s national campaign, told not to read too much into Obama’s remark.
“He has always been an advocate for fair, dignified and respectful treatment of human beings,” said Sanchez. “I think he was speaking of that, and nothing more than that. There is nothing more to read into it. No matter what your status in life is, treat people with respect and with dignity.”
“I am not going to put words in his mouth,” said Sanchez when asked him to explain the remark further. “He [Obama] has consistently said that as people and as a government, we need to treat people with respect and dignity.”
Sen. Ken Salazar( D-Colo.) told that he hadn’t heard Obama’s remark but he believes Obama was simply referencing the “humanly painful” aspect of  immigration enforcement.
“I wasn’t there and I did not hear the comment he made but I think all that is happening in this country at this point is simply a clarion call that we have system that is broken and needs to be fixed,” said Salazar. “That includes a raid like the one in my hometown in Colorado. It was a humanly painful raid but one that was necessary because of the law enforcement perspective.”
The press conference, held at DNC headquarters near the Capitol, was called to announce Obama’s “unprecedented” $20 million outreach to the Hispanic community. Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) said she believes that for the first time in history the “sleeping giant” has been awakened.
Salazar told reporters that engaging the 45 million Latino voters in the U.S. will be critical to winning the presidential election.