Published March 18, 2009
EXCLUSIVE: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently told a group of both legal and illegal immigrants and their families that enforcement of existing immigration laws, as currently practiced, is "un-American."
The speaker, condemning raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, referred to the immigrants she was addressing as "very, very patriotic."
"Who in this country would not want to change a policy of kicking in doors in the middle of the night and sending a parent away from their families?" Pelosi told a mostly Hispanic gathering at St. Anthony's Church in San Francisco.
"It must be stopped....What value system is that? I think it's un-American. I think it's un-American."
Pelosi said she was invited to the church by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., as part of his 17-city, cross-country tour called United Families, which he says is intended to put a human face on the immigration debate.
"We think that families are the cornerstone of our society and our nation, and an immigration system should preserve those families, not destroy them," Gutierrez told FOX News Capitol Hill Producer Chad Pergram on Tuesday.
The congressman is collecting petitions that ask President Obama to "stop the immigration raids and deportations that are tearing our marriages, families and children apart." He is expected to present those petitions when Hispanic members of Congress meet with the President Wednesday.
On Saturday night, Pelosi joined Gutierrez before a cheering crowd at St. Anthony's chanting, "Si se puede," or "Yes we can."
Referring to work site enforcement actions by ICE agents, Pelosi said, "We have to have a change in policy and practice and again ... I can't say enough, the raids must end. The raids must end.
"You are special people. You're here on a Saturday night to take responsibility for our country's future. That makes you very, very patriotic."
"I was embarrassed by what she said," said Rick Oltman, with Californians for Population Stabilization, an anti-illegal immigrant group. "Exhorting illegal aliens for taking responsibility for our country's future.... In fact, sitting there in the audience.... I really resented that comment."
"I think it was pandering to the crowd but also insulting to American citizens who consider themselves to be patriotic, who obey the rule of law," said Oltman, who shot a video of the rally.