A California-based conservative group is fuming over a cartoon they found hanging in a state senator’s office depicting Arizona’s strict immigration law as racist.
Members of the group “We the People Rising” apparently saw the cartoon -- which shows Arizona police officers pointing guns at immigrants traveling in a van near a highway sign that says “Welcome to Arizona” – during a visit in the summer to the office of Long Beach Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara.
Speech bubbles in the cartoon had police officers saying in a mix of German and English: “Stoppen yer auto” and “Achtung! Ve want to see your papers!” A sign under “Velcome to Arizona” says “If you’re brown leave town.”
“Had this been a white senator and minorities were complaining, I think the wall hanging would have been removed at the first complaint and never been put up again,” said Robin Hvidston, executive director of We the People Rising told Fox News Latino. The organization claims to have over 500 members and says it is a non-partisan organization open to anyone who cares about immigration. “Honestly, I think a white senator wouldn’t even dare to take this action.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the 2010 Arizona law's most contentious section — a requirement that police, while enforcing other laws, question the immigration status of those suspected of being in the country illegally. But the courts have either struck down or blocked enforcement of other sections of the law known as SB1070, such as a requirement that immigrants carry registration.
The activists with “We the People Rising” evidently took down the cartoon when they visited the office, and told Lara’s staff they found it offensive, but learned that it was hanging on the wall again.
“What are you doing with this cartoon in a taxpayer funded senator’s office presenting an inappropriate, divisive, negative depiction of law officers,” Hvidston explained. “It’s a cartoon. That’s freedom of speech. We think it’s inappropriate for it to be in the senator’s reception area in his foyer.”
The group wants an apology from Lara, and also wants the City Council to get involved in seeing that the cartoon comes down from the wall permanently.
“It’s basically saying that anybody who is against illegal immigration is a racist,” the Long Beach Press Telegram quoted Wes Parker, a member of the group, as saying about the cartoon.
Lara said in an emailed statement quoted by local newspapers: “The satirical piece depicts Arizona’s well-known discriminatory, anti-immigrant and anti-Latino attitudes in recent history. I obtained the piece at an ACLU of Southern California event where I proudly accepted the Legislator of the Year Award in the Assembly for my work on behalf of all Californians.”
“The Republican Tea Partiers who visited my district office, many from outside of my district, also enjoyed my personal collection of LGBT and Cambodian art, as well as Latin American art from (the Museum of Latin American Art),” Lara said.
The lawmaker said while he respects art criticism, he also values the diversity of opinion “such as those expressed by the artist.”
"The art piece will remain on the wall and my district office will continue to welcome all constituents,” he said, “even those belonging to groups like the Tea Party.”