There have been some pretty shameful and disturbing displays of out-and-out racism since Donald Trump’s upset victory. But one of the worst to date may have taken place on Thursday at the Arizona State Capitol. Several Latina legislative staffers, a Latino lawmaker, and a Native American lawmaker had to walk through a gauntlet of immigration opponents who thought they were illegal immigrants just because they were dark-skinned.
When state senate Democratic staffers Lisette Flores, Selianna Robles, and Dora Ramirez walked to a farmers market for lunch, they were greeted by a brace of Trump supporters. Robles told the Arizona Capitol Times that the protesters started yelling at her, Flores, and Ramirez, telling them to “get out of the country.” One of them pointed at Flores, called her illegal, and yelled, “Get out, go back home!” When the protesters saw state house Democratic staffer Jane Ahern, who is white, walking alongside the three Latinas, they told her, “No, you can stay.”
Flores suspects the deplorables came after her because she has darker skin than Robles and Ramirez, who are light-skinned Latinas. Never mind that she’s originally from California. But that came as no surprise to Robles, who was raised in San Luis, near Yuma. She thinks “there’s not much we can do,” but wants people to understand that “we’re just here to do our job.”
Later in the day, state representative Eric Descheenie, a Navajo, saw a student being harassed by the protesters. But when Descheenie came to the student’s defense, he said that the deplorables started in on him, asking him if he was here illegally. Descheenie scoffed at them, since he’s “indigenous to these lands.” He curtly told them, “Don’t ask me that question.”
State representative Cesar Chavez, who was brought to this country from Mexico as a toddler, said that a Trump supporter collared him and asked him who he was and who he represented. Chavez said he jokingly described himself as “an undocumented legislator,” prompting the woman to snap, “You’re illegal. Once illegal, always illegal.”
Watch a clip of Thursday’s proceedings here.
Several of the protesters were heard automatically assuming that people were undocumented, as well as harassing people and calling them illegal.
Later in the day, Tomas Robles, executive director of Living United for Change in Arizona, spoke to supporters in Spanish, several Trump protesters tried to shout him down. One woman who attended the event claimed to have seen protesters yelling at kids who were on a field trip.
When state senate minority leader Katie Hobbs heard what happened, she wrote state senate president Steve Yarborough to complain about the harassment. She also blasted the “unacceptable” response from state capitol police, who were reportedly told to stand down due to First Amendment concerns. However, Hobbs said, what happened on Thursday went “far beyond” free speech.
State senator Martin Quezada was equally outraged.
— Sen. Martín Quezada (@SenQuezada29) January 25, 2018
To be fair, LUCHA activists may have crossed a line as well. One of the protesters, Lesa Antone, captured video of a black Trump supporter being told that she was going to be “the first to get lynched. Antone and another protester, Jennifer Caminiti-Harrison, adamantly denied asking if lawmakers were here illegally. Tellingly, however, they suggested that LUCHA didn’t have the right to lobby lawmakers because many of the activists were undocumented.
Even if no lawmakers were harassed, what was captured on video is simply outrageous. The mere thought that people can be harassed simply because they don’t “look” legal is fundamentally un-American. And the fact that it can possibly happen in 2018 is equally un-American.
(featured image courtesy 2candle, available under a Creative Commons BY-SA license)