Video: Arizona students say no to the U.S.
March 20, 2011 · Print This Article
The Arizona Guardian vka NILP
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Republican Sen. Lori Klein stirred up gasps and anger during Thursday’s immigration debate when she read from a letter that described most Mexican students as wanting to be “gang members and gangsters.”
The Anthem Republican cited a letter that she said was sent from a West Valley substitute teacher, who described his experience in an eighth-grade classroom.
The teacher claimed that most Mexican students in the class refused to say the pledge of allegiance, explaining that “we are Mexicans and Americans stole our land.”
The letter went on to say that most of the students said they were illegal immigrants and described white Americans as racists.
Klein read the letter during a debate about legislation that would require school districts to collect data on students who are enrolled in public shools but cannot prove legal residence. That bill failed along with four others aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration in the state, as a handful of GOP senators joined Democrats in sinking the measures.
The freshman Senator prefaced the letter by saying: “I think we all want kids to get a good education . . .” and then Klein began reading from the letter for about three minutes.
In the letter, the teacher described a raucous classroom in which students tore out the pages of textbooks, wadded them up and threw the paper and books at each other.
“I thought, ‘Are these the students we are trying to educate with taxpayers’ money?’ I have found that substitute teaching in these areas, most of the Hispanics do not want to be educated but rather be gang members and gangsters,” Klein quoted from the letter. “They hate America and are determined to reclaim this area for Mexico.”
The Arizona Guardian on Friday requested a copy of the letter, which was provided by Senate staff. The letter was originally addressed to Senate President Russell Pearce. But the letter obtained by the Guardian did not disclose the name of the teacher or his contact information. Requests have since been made for that information, but have not been immediately provided.
Klein’s floor speech got personal when the letter invoked Democratic Sen. Steve Gallardo as being a key player in supporting illegal immigration policies.
Gallardo, a Cartwright Elementary School Board member, took the floor minutes later and gave an emotional speech.
“I’ve had the honor of being here at the State Capitol since 2003 … and I don’t think I’ve ever heard any floor speech similar to one that was just given out right now,” Gallardo said. “They do not have dreams to be gang members. They do not want to be thugs or whatever you want to phrase it as. These are good kids.”
Moments after the exchange, several members of the Democratic caucus approached newly elected Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs to voice concerns about Klein’s floor speech.
Biggs later said the Democrats voiced complaints about the letter being offensive and calls into question Gallardo’s character. Biggs said he talked to both sides and the issue was eventually diffused.
Klein refused to be interviewed after the Senate recessed.
Gallardo later said he had moved on from the comments.
“Sticks and stones. I’ve been called a lot worse. Besides, she carries a gun, so I can’t be mad at her,” Gallardo quipped about Klein, who is known to carry a firearm in her purse inside the Senate building.
But the Phoenix Democrat said Klein – while reading someone else’s words – clearly was implying that Mexican students are more interested in crime than education.
“What she was saying was these kids are not here to get an education. They are here to be disruptive. They’re here to be gang members and cause harm to our community,” Gallardo said. “That’s what she is saying and that’s unfortunate.”