An appearance by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Sarah Saldana at a Dallas community meeting descended into chaos Wednesday after immigration activists angrily confronted her over her agency’s treatment of undocumented immigrants.
According to a report in The Dallas Morning News, Saldana, a former United States Attorney for North Texas, appeared with Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez at a community forum at El Centro College in downtown Dallas Wednesday night (May 20). After a few prepared remarks, Saldana opened the floor to questions, and she was immediately besieged by local activists upset over ICE policies toward undocumented immigrants.
During her prepared remarks, Saldana insisted ICE was only actively working to deport the “worst of the worst” undocumented or illegal immigrants, setting their priority on those who commit criminal offenses. The facts, however, tell a different story: most immigrants detained and deported are members of families (often of U.S. citizens) with no serious crimes. Parents are routinely deported, leaving children behind. It is this reality that immigration activists pointed out to Saldana, and demanded answers.
Activist Carlos Quintanilla demanded ICE stop deportations of immigrants with no criminal record. Danny Cendejas of the Texas Organizing Project said he has repeatedly asked Sheriff Valdez for a meeting to discuss her policy on immigration “holds” for ICE. When members of the audience did not get satisfying answers, they became agitated, and tempers flared. Some physically turned their backs on Saldana and Valdez, saying ICE and Dallas County Sheriffs had turned their backs on them. After chants of “ICE out of Dallas” filled the room, both Sheriff Valdez and Director Saldana left the room abruptly, ending the meeting.
Ralph Isenberg of the Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment in Dallas may not agree with ICE’s tactics, but he found the response by the crowd at the meeting out-of-line. “I and my organization would never show that kind of disrespect to an elected official (Valdez). She is doing her job,” he said. “The real question has to be what was the purpose of Sheriff Valdez arrange to have this ‘chit-chat’ with the ICE director. What were the motivations for the sheriff and the ICE director? In the past, Sheriff Valdez has distanced herself from ICE. Why the change now? Was this about a possible future appointment to DHS?”
Isenberg thinks the protests were more about grandstanding than facilitating change. “The protesters should have known. What did they expect them to say? We know policies aren’t being followed. It starts in DC and filters down to field offices. The Dallas field office is most dangerous office for foreign nationals. There is no respect by agents for directives that come from the ICE director or the President. What have they (the protesters) done to keep families together? What have they accomplished? It is rude to turn your back like that. It is embarrassing to the sheriff. Regardless of what you think of Saldana, she did a good job as assistant U.S. Attorney.
“If Director Saldana really wanted to help, instead of a community meeting, she should have have had private meetings with locals to work out problems, especially with the Dallas office and its director, Simona Flores. Ms. Flores has a standing order that federal police are called if I show up at Dallas ICE headquarters. Ms. Saldana should sit down with me and Ms. Flores to work out a way we can work together. We go to ICE when we find a mistake with a foreign national’s case. They are cases where no lawyer or organization will help them, and we usually win. Our record speaks for itself.”
Victor Medina is the editor of WhenLiberalsAttack.com. His other writing credits include The Dallas Morning News, Yahoo News, and SportsIllustrated.com. He has served as a Dallas County election judge and on the Board of Directors of The Sixth Floor Museum. You can follow him on his blog, VictorMedina.com or on Twitter at @mrvictormedina. He can be reached by email at email@example.com. Click here to receive a weekly email update from WhenLiberalsAttack.com. To be notified of future stories by Victor Medina, click the SUBSCRIBE TO AUTHOR button below or simply click here.