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State Senator Sylvia Allen at a 2011 event.
State Senator Sylvia Allen at a 2011 event.
Gage Skidmore

Republicans Who Pounced on David Stringer Stay Silent on Sylvia Allen

Arizona Republicans have remained largely silent over State Senator Sylvia Allen's recent comments on immigration, in which she expressed fear that the United States will soon resemble "South American countries," that white birthrates are declining, and that new immigrants "flooding" the nation will not be able to learn "the principles of our country."

In contrast, the state's GOP leaders were quick to act when former State Representative David Stringer made headlines in June 2018 for saying there "aren't enough white kids to go around" in Arizona public schools.

Within a day of Phoenix New Times' report on Stringer's comments, Governor Doug Ducey called on the Prescott Republican to resign. So did former Arizona Republican Party chairman Jonathan Lines and Arizona Chamber of Commerce CEO Glenn Hamer. When Stringer was caught on tape making more racist comments in November, Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers removed most of his committee assignments.

As of publication of this story, neither Ducey nor Hamer have commented on the audio of Allen's remarks, which were first published on Friday by New Times. Current Arizona Republican Party chairwoman Kelli Ward — known for rubbing elbows with the far right — has also kept quiet.

Not a word either from State Representative Walt Blackman, who represents the same district as Allen, and who co-headlined the July 15 "Mormon Political Pioneers" event in which his colleague made her comments on immigration. Nothing from Republican Senate President Karen Fann, despite calls by ProgressNow Arizona for her to remove Allen as chair of the Senate Education Committee.

The only Republican to issue a statement besides Allen herself was her Republican primary challenger in the 2020 election, Wendy Rogers.

In a string of tweets on Saturday, Rogers said, "The Republican Party does not tolerate racism; we stand for law and order, strong borders, and love of country. I denounce Sylvia Allen's very racist statement. Some of America's greatest heroes do not look like Sylvia, yet served with honor in combat preserving our way of life."

She followed her statement with a Wikipedia list of Hispanic Medal of Honor recipients

Rogers, a perennial candidate, is a curious messenger for anti-racism.

As a self-described "America First, pro-Trump Republican," Rogers aligns herself closely with former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who cost local taxpayers more than $100 million for the practice of racial profiling under his leadership.

In her very next tweet after condemning Allen, Rogers endorsed President Trump's recent comment that a congressional district that counts part of Baltimore is “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess," a statement that was widely seen by critics and Baltimore residents as racist.

For her part, Allen apologized on Friday to those "hurt" by her comments.

"I find that my remarks from a recent event have been made into something they are not," she said in an emailed statement to reporters. "My intent was not to offend the residents of Arizona, but I see the effect was different and I am recognizing that."

Allen noted that she once sponsored a "Hmong family from Laos and helped them to assimilate into our country."

She claimed that her comments on the United States soon looking like "South American countries" had nothing to do with race, but rather a concern with some of the political systems on the continent.

"My reference to South America was the concern that some of these countries are socialist and that we must preserve our Constitutional Republic form of government and that we have no taught the next generation the difference," Allen said.

She did not address her comments on white birthrates, in which she said: "The median age of a white woman is 43. The median age of a Hispanic woman is 27. We are not reproducing ourselves, the birthrates. But here's what I see is the issue. It's because of immigration."

Allen also repeated her explanation that her comments were referring to research by Dr. James Johnson, a University of North Carolina business professor who studies demographics.

While Johnson notes that the United States is experiencing a wave of Latino and Asian migration, which he and Allen have both called the "Browning of America," the professor has emphasized economic benefits brought by immigrants and cautioned against framing their arrival as burdensome.

“I was stunned,” Johnson told The Washington Post on Sunday. “I have been in higher education for 40 years, and I’ve never had anyone spin my research that way.”

Unlike Republicans, Democrats have predictably come out strong against Allen's immigration remarks.

"Allen’s remarks are vile and harmful to the children and families that make up our state. The diversity of Arizona and our country is our strength," Arizona Democratic Party Executive Director Herschel Fink said in a statement. "It’s clear the Republican party stands for racism and xenophobia."

State Senator Martín Quezada, who had called Allen's comments "David Stringer all over again," criticized her apology for showing "little knowledge" of Latin America, where he noted "most economies are #Capitalist."

Quezada has a personal stake in Allen's comments. He was personally named by Allen in her July 15 speech.

"When Senator Quezada says we don't want to assimilate, then what do you want?" Allen said. "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?"

Quezada said Allen was probably referring to tweets he wrote this month explaining that he is a proponent of acculturation over assimilation. In the former, immigrants retain their cultural identities while adopting facets of American culture. In the latter, immigrants are expected to conform to the dominant culture.

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