An Arizona state lawmaker faces backlash after claiming immigration represents an “existential threat” to the United States, in part because “there aren’t enough white kids.”
Rep. David Stringer, a Republican from Prescott, railed against the changing demographics in his state on Monday at a Yavapai County Republican Men’s Forum event.
“Sixty percent of public school children in the state of Arizona today are minorities,” Stringer told the crowd. “That complicates racial integration because there aren’t enough white kids to go around.”
Calling immigration “politically destabilizing,” Stringer lamented that minority students will grow up to “change the demographic voting base of this state.”
“Immigration today represents an existential threat to the United States,” he said. “If we don’t do something about immigration very, very soon, the demographics of our country will be irrevocably changed and we will be a very different country. It will not be the country you were born into.”
Stringer’s comments began making headlines on Wednesday after David Schapira, a Democratic candidate for Arizona’s superintendent of public instruction, posted a video of them online.
Stringer, who is running for re-election this year, defended his remarks in a statement Thursday to HuffPost.
“My political opponents have taken 51 seconds out of a 16-minute speech to try to distort my message and mislead voters,” Stringer said. “We recognize the tactic. I’m not interested in taking the fake news bait.”
The statement continued:
In my speech, I spoke at length about my efforts to pass criminal justice reform which is a long time passion of mine. Our criminal justice system is broken and disproportionately targets minorities, more often than not for low level drug offenses.
My remarks also touched on several other issues including immigration ― both legal and illegal ―and the challenge of successfully assimilating large numbers of immigrants over a short period of time. Arizona and our country as a whole are in the throes of rapid demographic change. This presents issues of urgent public concern because of the strain it places on important institutions of our society including schools, prisons and our health care system.
My comments about school integration were factually accurate and were intended to illustrate the challenges facing successful integration when white students are a rapidly declining percentage of the whole. This issue cries out for honest and open public discussion.
Regrettably, my political opponents seek to shut down discussion with name calling and vile accusations. The irony is that in an effort to take cheap political shots, they are attacking the rarest of elected officials ― a conservative Republican who is championing criminal justice reform in the face of political threats and challenges from powerful elements and politicians in my own party.
I am not afraid of conservative bigwigs and I’m not afraid of liberal bullies either. Anyone who doubts this is welcome to come hear me speak and judge for yourself if I am a truth teller.
Carlos Galindo-Elvira, regional director of Anti-Defamation League Arizona, called Stringer’s remarks “shockingly inappropriate.”
“We are deeply disturbed after viewing the video and hearing comments made by Rep. David Stringer regarding minorities and immigrants,” Galindo-Elvira said in a statement on Wednesday.
“There’s no place in our state government for this type of hateful messaging especially when we are a nation of immigrants; it is shockingly inappropriate,” he said. “Rep. Stringer totally disregards the numerous contributions made by immigrants for our country.”
In a statement to The Arizona Republic, Arizona House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios (D) called Stringer’s comments “another source of national embarrassment for our state.”
“Just as disturbing, there did not appear to be single murmur of disagreement from the audience,” Rio said. “We work side by side with Rep. Stringer and our Republican colleagues and want to think the best of them. But when will they stand up to divisive rhetoric like this that echoes fervent racists and white nationalists like David Duke?”
This story has been updated to include comment from Stringer.