Sen. Sylvia Allen Warns the U.S. Will Soon 'Look Like South American Countries'

State Senator Sylvia Allen at a 2011 event.
State Senator Sylvia Allen at a 2011 event. Gage Skidmore
Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen — speaking at a Republican event this month — expressed concern that the United States is "going to look like South American countries very quickly," warning that new immigrants will not be able to "assimilate" at the rate that they are arriving.

Allen made her remarks during a July 15 event commemorating "Mormon Political Pioneers" at the Arizona Republican Party headquarters in Phoenix.

Phoenix New Times obtained audio of Allen's comments on Thursday, the full version of which is posted at the bottom of this page. In a text message, Allen told New Times that her comments on assimilation were inspired by a study from a University of North Carolina professor.

"This is David Stringer all over again." — State Senator Martín Quezada

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"I said we needed to be able to control our immigration process so that we have time to assimilate people into our society and economic system. Jobs, housing, education, and health care," she said. "Plus to be able to teach them about the American form of government. That's all there was to it."

Allen cited the same professor again in response to follow-up questions regarding her comments about South American countries, a reference she made to declining white birthrates, and a criticism of Democratic State Senator Martín Quezada.

During a rambling, 25-minute speech peppered with religious and autobiographical references, Allen expressed a worldview that the founding principles of the United States are under attack by feminists, secularists, and immigrants.

Allen's discussion of assimilation occurred near the end of her speech, following a reference to Dr. James Johnson, a business professor at the University of North Carolina who studies demographics.

Allen on immigration

"Another thing that Dr. Johnson talked about is the 'Browning of America,'" Allen said. "That America is fast becoming ... we're going to look like South American countries very quickly."

Allen, a Snowflake resident who represents a legislative district comprising parts of Coconino, Gila, Yavapai, and Navajo counties, raised alarm over the declining birth rates of whites in the United States.

"The median age of a white woman is 43. The median age of a Hispanic woman is 27," Allen said. "We are not reproducing ourselves, the birthrates. But here's what I see is the issue. It's because of immigration."

Johnson has been widely cited for his work identifying six ongoing demographic changes in the U.S, including population growth in the South, increasing interracial marriage, longer life expectancy, declining economic prospects for men, a rise in children living with grandparents, and immigration-driven population change that he calls "the Browning of America."

Allen expressed fears that the United States does not have the resource capacity for new immigrants. She also cautioned that immigrants are arriving at a rate that does not allow them to learn "the principles of our country."

"We have a right as a country to have people coming in an organized manner, so we know who are coming. So we can have jobs for them. So we can provide education for them, and health care, and all these things that people need," Allen said. "We can't provide that when people are just flooding us and flooding us and flooding us and overwhelming us so we don't have time to teach them the principles of our country any more than we're teaching our children today."

Allen's interpretation of Johnson's research does not align with how he presents it in public lectures. In frequent talks to business groups, Dr. Johnson describes the trend of increasing immigration from Hispanic countries as a reality that the U.S. will need to adapt to if it wants to maintain its "competitiveness in the global marketplace."

In a 2013 lecture to the National Entrepreneur Center in Florida, Johnson disputed the notion that immigrants place a burden on society. He distinguished between the "fiscal impact" of immigrants, such as healthcare and education costs, with the "economic impact," which factors in the spending power of immigrants and other benefits.

"There are these spin-off jobs that wouldn't be there if you didn't have the immigrant. They are paying taxes. They spend money goods and services," Johnson said. "If you shut down the borders and run everybody home, what happens to the immigration attorney? They ain't got no money. They're out of a job. And everything he spends on goes down the tube."

In her speech, Allen also made a reference to her colleague Quezada.

"When Senator Quezada says we don't want to assimilate, then what do you want? What do you plan for America to look like in 10 years? What kind of form of government are we going to live under in 10 years?"

click to enlarge State Senator Martín Quezada - MIRIAM WASSER
State Senator Martín Quezada
Miriam Wasser
After listening to a copy of the July 15 audio, Quezada told New Times he could not say for certain what remarks of his Allen was referring to. But Quezada pointed to tweets he sent two weeks prior in which he advocated for "acculturation" of immigrants over "assimilation."

Quezada was referring to comments by a Democratic presidential candidate, who explained in an interview that he did not grow up speaking Spanish due to a legacy in which the language was "looked down upon."

"Some of us have been victimized by this nation's culture of forced assimilation rather than acculturation," Quezada wrote on Twitter on July 1. "Some of our families were able to pass on aspects of our culture like language. Others were beaten in school for speaking native or indigenous languages."

Quezada compared Allen's remarks to those of former Republican State Representative David Stringer, who famously called immigration an "existential threat" and decried that there "aren't enough white kids to go around" in Arizona public schools.

"This is David Stringer all over again. It was very much Stringer-esque, in the tone and perspective she has on immigrants," Quezada said. "It’s insulting, to say the least."

Stringer's comments on immigration — which were widely publicized in June 2018 — led top Republican officials to call for his resignation. He eventually vacated his seat in March over revelations that he was arrested in Baltimore in the '80s for allegedly molesting underage teenage boys.

Prior to her comments on immigration, Allen used her speech to rehash her opposition to an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), the proposed constitutional amendment that would guarantee equal rights regardless of sex. During the most recent legislative session, the Arizona Legislature rejected the ERA for the third time in three years.

Allen on feminism

Allen repeated her earlier criticism that the ERA refers to "sex," rather than "gender," before launching into a broader criticism of feminism. What's really hurting society, Allen said, is the decline of the patriarchy.

She cited research by Johnson showing that women are enrolling in college at greater rates than men, and that men accounted for most of the job loss during the 2008 recession.

"We have been taught in our society that the patriarchal order is horrible and awful for children, going after our families and destroying our families. That is the basis of our foundation of society. You destroy the family, you destroy the society. And we are working overtime to destroy our society," Allen said. "Our boys are struggling to know how to be men. This feminist movement is not doing favors for us, at all."

A charter school owner, Allen was first elected to the Arizona State Senate about a decade ago, representing District 5 from 2008 to 2012. She joined the Legislature again in 2014 as a District 6 senator and has twice won re-election.

Allen previously drew headlines in 2015 for saying that Arizona should consider adopting a law that would require mandatory church service. "Probably we should be debating a bill requiring every American to attend a church of their choice on Sunday to see if we can get back to having a moral rebirth," Allen said.

In 2009, speaking in support of uranium mining, Allen falsely claimed the Earth was 6,000 years old.

Listen to the full audio of Sylvia Allen's July 15 remarks below:

Sylvia Allen at Mormon Political Pioneers event

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Steven Hsieh was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from August 2018 to April 2020.
Contact: Steven Hsieh