PHOENIX (AP) — U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema said Monday that activists who confronted her outside an Arizona State University classroom and videotaped her in the restroom were not engaging in a “legitimate protest.” .
The Democratic senator said immigration reform activists illegally entered the suburban Phoenix campus building, which was only open to ASU students and faculty, and taped her, her and her students. Sinema, a former social worker, is a lecturer at ASU’s School of Social Work.
“In my 19 years teaching at ASU, I have been committed to creating a safe and intellectually stimulating environment for my students,” Sinema said. “Yesterday, this environment was violated. My students were unjustly and illegally victimized.
Living United for Change in Arizona, also known as LUCHA, posted video of Sunday’s encounter on its social media.
The video showed members of the group chastising Sinema on charges that she had not sufficiently supported expectations of a pathway to citizenship for those illegally in the country and had not sufficiently supported the proposed infrastructure of $3.5 trillion from President Joe Biden.
Sinema said nothing to the activists as they filmed her.
LUCHA said its members were forced to face Sinema at ASU because she was unreachable.
“Sinema voters were denied access to his office, they were ignored, fired and upset,” the group said. said in a statement Monday.
Sinema said in her statement that she has met with the group several times since her election to the Senate.
Sinema and fellow Democratic Senator Joe Manchin have been criticized for not fully supporting the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act, saying it was too expensive. Manchin, of West Virginia, was also confronted by activists over the weekend. People in kayaks approached his boat to yell at him.
Asked about the incidents, President Joe Biden, whose first year in office could be defined by the passage of this package, agreed that they were not the best strategies.
“I don’t think those are appropriate tactics, but it happens to everyone…the only people it doesn’t happen to are people who have Secret Service around them,” Biden said. “So that’s – that’s part of the process.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki sought to emphasize that Biden supports people’s basic right to self-expression. But in the case of Sinema, the limits have been crossed.
“It’s inappropriate and unacceptable,” PSAki said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., also took offense to the ASU confrontation.
“I started my career protesting the Vietnam War, and I get protests all the time,” said Schumer, who is trying to push the Build Back Better Act through Congress. “And I understand and so feel for the immigrant community and what they’re going through, but following someone into a bathroom and recording them is outdated.”
LUCHA’s statement did not address criticism of the tactic. Tomas Robles, the group’s co-director, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the backlash from the showdown in the ASU restroom.
“Now is the time for Sinema to do the right thing and stop blocking the Build Back Better Act,” the statement read. “We – his constituents – need a pathway to citizenship, access to health care and lower drug prices, better paying jobs, funding for education and the ability to ensure the safety of our families. Senator Sinema must listen to voters and support a build back better agenda.
Immigration reform supporters have been outraged after the rejection of an effort to add immigration provisions to the infrastructure bill, including a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants. They believe Sinema’s stance on the infrastructure package makes any immigration provision unworkable.
Sinema spokesman John LaBombard told The Arizona Republic last month that it “supports both securing our border and fixing our broken immigration system, including passing a a permanent solution for the Dreamers”.
The DREAM Act – Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors – is Congressional legislation that would allow young illegal immigrants to the country who were brought here as children to stay in the country if they meet certain criteria . The legislation was never approved by Congress. It is similar but not identical to the Deferred Action Program for Childhood Arrivals. Many refer to immigrants who would benefit from the DREAM Act or DACA as “dreamers.”