LATINO VOICES
09/09/2013 05:51 pm ET Updated Sep 19, 2013

Steve Womack To Mexican American Constituent: Lose The Flag (VIDEO) (UPDATED)

This Arkansas conservative doesn’t approve of Americans wearing Mexican flags.

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) lashed out at a Mexican-American constituent last week for wearing a shirt bearing the flag of his heritage at a town hall meeting. American Bridge, a liberal group dedicated to tracking GOP gaffes uploaded the video to YouTube.

Walking to the front of the audience and introducing himself as a resident of Fort Smith, Arkansas, who is “very proud of his heritage” as the son of two Mexican parents. “I’m so nervous I can’t even speak,” he says, continuing: “I respect the whole border thing -- I respect that -- and I wanted to ask if it is a possibility to legalize the 11 million immigrants here in this country, that are here and are contributing to the progress of this country.”

Womack responded saying it was possible but not likely because of the composition of Congress.

After answering the question, Womack went on to criticize the Mexican flag on his constituent’s shirt.

“I don’t want to put this gentleman on the spot,” Womack says, as he turns his back to the young man. “But it does strike me as a bit odd that I would get a question as to why we shouldn’t just automatically make it legal for people who didn’t come here in a legal circumstance, with a flag of another country hanging around his neck.”

“This is just some good old friendly advice,” Womack continued. “If you want to win friends and influence people on the issues that you are talking about, I would suggest a little different approach in terms of my attire when I’m appealing to an audience like this."

In a statement emailed to HuffPost, Womack's communications director Claire Burghoff said the congressman respected the young man's culture, but stood by the comments:

Congressman Womack respects this young man’s pride in his heritage. However, he firmly believes actions such as this – whether out of pride or provocation – are not constructive to the obviously divisive immigration debate.

The U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill that provides a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and pours tens of billions of dollars into ramping up security along the U.S. Mexico border. The bill remains stalled in the House of Representatives.

UPDATED: This post has been updated to add a comment from Rep. Steve Womack's office.

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