Posted on August 2, 2004

Immigration Sweeps Become an Election Issue for Rep. Baca

Hugo Martín, L. A. Times, Aug. 2

The series of sweeps by Border Patrol agents in the Inland Empire and San Diego County appear to be over, but the political fallout may last until the November election.

Rep. Joe Baca (D-San Bernardino), a staunch Latino rights advocate, jumped into the political storm by leading a protest of the sweeps — which netted more than 450 suspected illegal immigrants — and helping prompt federal officials to suspend the roundups.

Because of his activism, Baca has become a lightning rod of criticism from supporters of the sweeps and from a Southern California Border Patrol union whose members felt the congressman vilified them for detaining the suspects, according to those from both parties watching the election closely.

The controversy is expected to transform Baca’s reelection bid from a likely easy win to a compelling contest focusing on immigration.