Arizona lawmaker criticized for saying US might look like South America

Arizona lawmaker criticized for saying US might look like South America

PHOENIX – Arizona state Sen. Sylvia Allen is facing criticism, following recent comments she made about immigration, white birth rates, the “browning” of America, feminism and the Equal Rights Amendment.

During a speech to Republicans earlier this month, Allen said America would “look like South American countries very quickly” and warned that immigrants were “flooding” the United States at a rate that didn’t allow for them to “learn the principles of our country,” according to audio published by the Phoenix New Times on Friday.

“We have a right in our country to have people come in an organized manner so we know who’s coming, so we can provide jobs for them, so we can provide education for them and health care and all these things people need,” she said.

“We can’t provide that if people are just flooding us and flooding us and flooding us and overwhelming us.”

In her comments, Allen noted declining white birth rates compared to Hispanic birth rates, saying it was an issue “because of immigration.” She referred to a “browning of America,” a term she attributed to a well-known demographer, though he is not critical of immigration in his research.

“The median age of a white woman is 43. The median age of a Hispanic woman is 27. We are not reproducing ourselves with birth rates. But, here’s what I see is this issue: It’s because of immigration.”

Allen’s comments were part of a 25-minute speech delivered at the Arizona Republican Party headquarters in Phoenix during an event called “Mormon Political Pioneers: Then & Now” on July 15, according to the New Times.

An online notice for the event lists Allen, R-Snowflake, as a featured speaker. She is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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Allen could not be reached for comment. In a statement released Friday afternoon, she said her remarks had been made into “something they are not.” 

“Let me start off by sincerely apologizing to anyone who has been hurt by my words,” she said in the statement. “My intent was not to offend the residents of Arizona, but I see the effect was different and I am recognizing that. While I do apologize for the remarks, please let me clarify what I failed to articulate properly during my speech.”

Her statement continues to say immigrants are welcome if they come legally and “assimilate to our country and its laws.” It says she referenced South America because she was concerned that some South American countries were “socialist.” 

Allen’s statement did not address the birth rate comment.

Allen critical of fellow senator

Allen also mentioned fellow state Sen. Martín Quezada, D-Glendale, by name, claiming that he opposed assimilation.

“What do you plan for America to look like in 10 years?” she said. “What kind of form of government are we going to live under in 10 years?”

Quezada, who was not at the event, said he was not surprised to hear Allen’s comments, but he was shocked to hear them “being made so openly and blatantly to a group of people.” 

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Quezada said he had posted on Twitter several times in the past about the difference between acculturation and assimilation, and he felt Allen hadn’t “comprehended that whole discussion or what my point was.”

To Quezada, assimilation means giving up one’s culture in favor of the culture of a new country. Acculturation, meanwhile, is adapting to a new culture while maintaining original cultural ties.

“I think what she took from that was there was going to be no acculturation or assimilation whatsoever — that’s what she implied,” Quezada said.

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Democrats condemn remarks

Following the publishing of the audio, several groups have condemned the senator’s remarks. ProgressNow Arizona announced a petition Friday to call on Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, to remove Allen as chairwoman of the Arizona Senate’s Committee on Education.

Fann could not immediately be reached for comment.

A statement from the Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee compared the comments to those of former Arizona Rep. David Stringer. In June 2018, Stringer said there “there aren’t enough white kids to go around” in the United States and called immigration “an existential threat.”

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Stringer, a Prescott Republican, faced bipartisan calls for his resignation, but remained in office. He later resigned from the House, after leaders learned that he was arrested decades earlier on suspicion of paying children for sex in Baltimore.

Allen also spent a portion of her July 15 speech decrying feminism, saying “our boys are struggling to know how to be men” and that “this feminist movement” is “not doing any favors for us at all.”

“We’re being taught in our society that the patriarchal order is horrible and awful for children, going after our families and destroying our families,” she said.

She reiterated opposition to an Equal Rights Amendment, which would amend the constitution to guarantee equal rights regardless of sex.

This isn’t the first time Allen has been criticized for public remarks. During a 2009 legislative hearing, she claimed Earth was only 6,000 years old. In March 2015, she suggested mandatory church attendance for all Americans. 

Follow Kyra Haas on Twitter @kc_haas.

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