Phoenix City Council candidate Carlos Garcia checks many boxes as a bogeyman for the far-right.
He's a Mexican-American immigrant who protested former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He's a leftist community organizer critical of the police. He's not afraid to chant "chinga la migra" (fuck the Border Patrol).
So when the Arizona Republic endorsed Garcia for the District 8 seat over former council member Mike Johnson, members of the Angel Families United Facebook group did not take the news well.
An administrator for the page posted a link to the endorsement with the caption, "I know he will fight for sanctuary policies. He is not American born. We need TRUE BLOODED AMERICANS running AMERICAN cities and states."
"send the bastard back to mexico!!!" responded Joy Quick.
"Die soon traitor," said Mark Harris.
"Amen! Shoot this focker!" wrote Dino Bochicchio.
In a phone interview with Phoenix New Times, Garcia said he's experienced hate before, but the animus has been taken up a notch since he announced his run for city council.
In addition to the Facebook comments, he said he's received two phone calls expressing similar sentiments.
Garcia said he has thick skin. "But when some of the younger folks in the campaign see it, it gets scary for them."
He added that comments about him in the Angel Families Facebook group mirror broader feelings toward immigrants since President Trump was elected, recalling a moment shortly after the November election when a classmate of his son told the child he'd be deported.
"It's hate people get every day," Garcia said. "I can only imagine it’s going to get worse as we get more successful."
The Angel Families United group appears to be administered by Mary Ann Mendoza, whose son Brandon, a police officer, was killed by a wrong-way undocumented driver in 2014. The group did not respond to a Facebook message seeking comment, though a read receipt indicates that an administrator for the group saw a message from Phoenix New Times on Friday at 10 p.m.
In a statement responding to a screenshot of the threats against Garcia, city council candidate Johnson said, "Violence, and the threat of violence, has no place in our elections. We need to continue to find ways to unify our community and work together towards a great future for District 8."
While anyone running for public office can expect unsavory detractors, the offensive comments directed at Garcia reflect a strain of political attack reserved for candidates of color, particularly Hispanics.
Commenters, for instance, incorrectly implied that Garcia is not a citizen and therefore ineligible to hold elected office.
It's a common story in Arizona. Just this November, newly elected State Representative Raquel Terán got hit with a frivolous lawsuit claiming she is not a citizen. (Terán was born in Douglas.) The anti-immigrant activist who filed the lawsuit, Alice Novoa, had made similar claims about other elected officials before.
While calls for Garcia's death appear to have been deleted from the group's page, remarks questioning his citizenship and casting aspersions on his Mexican heritage remain.
Garcia, founder of the immigrant rights group Puente Arizona, comes to the race from an unusual background.
He rose to prominence in Phoenix protesting Arpaio and SB 1070, the "show me your papers" law that prompted a national debate on immigration. More recently, Puente has led demonstrations against Trump's strict immigration policies. Garcia himself has been arrested several times protesting deportations.
During the race, Garcia has been an outspoken critic of the Phoenix Police Department, drawing attention to the abnormally high rate of police shootings last year. He has advocated for a civilian review board that would have the power to fire bad officers.
And he says he does not plan to soften any of his positions on police or immigration.
"I plan to be as unapologetic as I’ve been before," Garcia said.
Johnson — a former Phoenix cop endorsed by the local officers' union — has defended the department against Garcia's criticisms.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.