It wasn’t enough to see his native land overrun with foreigners who were either refugees from sectarian religious strife or merely seeking a better, more prosperous life, rich with opportunity and freedom. Arizona State Representative Eric Descheenie (D) had to endure a much more excruciating experience at the state capitol this week.
Rep. Descheenie is a Native American of Navajo descent, and he had to face a crowd of racist Trump supporters who descended en masse upon Phoenix this week to protest attempts at immigration reform. According to an article in The Arizona Capitol Times, the jingoistic Trump fans:
“singled out dark-skinned lawmakers, legislative staffers and children at the Capitol on Jan. 25 as they protested congressional efforts to pass immigration reform, according to staffers of the Arizona Legislature and two Democratic legislators.”
In the ultimate, and most ironic, insult, the Trump supporters asked the darker-complexioned Native American legislator whether he was in the United States illegally.
“I’m indigenous to these lands,” Descheenie said. “My ancestors fought and died on these lands. I just told them, ‘Don’t ask me that question.’”
The armed racist anti-immigration protestors waved flags in support of the President while asking almost everyone they encountered if they “support illegal immigration.” Everyone except the darker skinned people whom they taunted with cries of “Illegal!” and “Go home!” They verbally accosted anyone whom they thought looked like they may be foreign born saying things like:
“Those guys are illegal … They do not have any rights here. It is not their time. This is our time. Our nation. Our laws. Our streets.”
Lisette Flores and Selianna Robles, Latino Democratic policy advisors in the Arizona Senate, had to be escorted to their offices by light skinned co-workers after first encountering the protestors.
“We’re walking back, and they start yelling again, ‘Get out of the country.’ At that point, they pointed to Lisette, called her an illegal, and said, ‘Get out, go back home!’” Robles said. “But they pointed at Jane (Ahern), who works for the House, and they said, ‘No, you can stay.’”
Ahern, of course, was one of her white colleagues.
“They assume things about you. There’s not much we can do,” said Robles, an Arizona native raised in the town of San Luis. “We work for the state, we’re public servants, and we’re just here to do our job.”
Representative César Chávez (D-Phoenix), who was brought to the U.S. from Mexico at the age of three, was asked by a female Trump fan who he was and cheekily responded “I’m an undocumented legislator.” The woman then called him an illegal immigrant.
Chavez had a philosophical stance on the encounter.
“She said something like, “You’re illegal. Once illegal, always illegal,” he said. “I took no offense, no attention. It was just simply one of those things where you’re going to have a stance and I’m going to have a stance and we’re never going to agree on things.”
Chavez wishes that the protestors could “understand that in this country, through a process, you, too, can be a part of a nation that provides opportunity to everybody. I wanted them to understand that an individual who came to this country undocumented at the age of three is now a member of the Arizona State Legislature.”
Democratic leaders in the Arizona Legislature were outraged by the incident. Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs (D-Phoenix) wrote a letter to the Republican Senate President and Senate security officials describing the harassment of staffers who the trump supporters “perceived not to be white,” and complained about the failure of law enforcement at the scene to act to protect the legislative staff.
“I can tell you that the Democratic staff who were yelled at by the protesters and called illegals definitely felt harassed and were not satisfied with the response,” Hobbs wrote. “They did not feel safe.”
Hobbs said that an officer told her that law enforcement was instructed to stand down while the Trump supporters demonstrated their First Amendment rights, something that she believes the protest went “far beyond.”
“This is a public place. When armed protesters aggressively go after members, staff and visitors, there needs to be a response that ensures the safety of everyone involved,” Hobbs wrote. “I have seen instances here at the capitol when peaceful protesters with a different agenda were surrounded by many more law enforcement officers with a much more aggressive response.”
“This is unacceptable,” she added.
The biggest question raised by this whole incident is how the Navajo legislator, Representative Descheenie, managed to keep from going bezerk when told to go back to his own country. His restraint is admirable, but it’s doubtful many others would have had the patience and fortitude to keep from lashing out in circumstances like that.
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