The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Sanders-founded group likely to part with staffer who tweeted about ‘illegal immigrants’

The political group founded by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) after his presidential campaign ended may part ways with an associate whose Fox News appearances and tweets sometimes swerved into criticism of the Democratic Party’s focus on “illegal immigrants.”

In the wake of a critical story in Politico, and a subsequent Facebook post by former Our Revolution political director Erika Andiola, the Sanders-founded group said it would reevaluate the role of Tezlyn Figaro, who was brought on board last year when former Ohio state senator Nina Turner took over. (Politico had reported “board members have been told her contract will end soon.”)

“The comments made by Tezlyn Figaro are not beliefs espoused by myself or Our Revolution,” Turner said in a statement. “I understand that we all have room to grow and evolve, and while we encourage growth, I am committed to maintaining a work environment that is safe and supportive for all. Tezlyn has publicly apologized for her comments and while she is still part of our paid staff, the matter is under advisement by myself and the Our Revolution board of directors.”

In the Facebook post, Andiola posted images of several tweets Figaro sent before joining Our Revolution. In one, Figaro combined her frustration about a focus on the new administration’s immigration policy with a meme about black incarceration rates. “U r being distracted abt ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS meanwhile more blacks are under prison/parole control in in 2010 than were enslaved in 1850,” Figaro wrote.

In another, Figaro recapped what she had said that day on “Fox and Friends,” one of several Fox shows where she had made appearances as a disgruntled veteran of the Sanders campaign. “If AMERICAN black folks can go to jail when they break the law then certainly so can an illegal immigrant,” Figaro wrote.

“I became sick to my stomach and could not stop crying all night,” Andiola wrote, describing the posts. “Despite what the article says, there has been a lot of incredible work done at the grassroots level. But I also hope and pray that the organization doesn’t forget about Latinos and undocumented folks on the left. A good start would be to remove Ms. Figaro from staff, as well as to hold accountable the org leadership for this.”

On Monday night, after Andiola’s post began to spread widely, Figaro wrote tweets apologizing for her comments, adding she was not “given the chance” to “learn and grow” before being called out.

As first reported by Politico, Turner had wanted Figaro, her longtime communications consultant, to become Our Revolution’s chief of staff. She was overruled by the group’s board, in part because of her frequent Fox News appearances, where she has appeared both to debate conservatives and to criticize the Democratic Party.

In the final months of the 2016 campaign, as Sanders campaigned for Hillary Clinton, Figaro appeared on Fox to attack the Democratic nominee’s focus and funding. In 2017, she appeared on the network to argue that the Democratic National Committee would “lose millions of votes” as people angry about the outcome of the party’s leadership election would “go forward with the ‘Dem exit’ ” — at the same time that Sanders was urging supporters to focus on the “unity reform commission” that would change the party’s primary rules.

Andiola’s post went further than criticizing Figaro. In it, Andiola claimed that her late 2017 work to defend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program led to her untimely departure from Our Revolution.

“When me and another Dreamer went to NYC on the day Trump rescinded DACA to sit in to defend our community, I had to do it on vacation time,” she wrote. Immigrants brought to the United States as children are often referred to as “dreamers.” “Senator Turner was going to force OR to leave the OurDream coalition we started because we were challenging Democrats as well as Republicans and because we believed our strategy had to include civil disobedience. Finally, I asked for a leave of absence or some way to work this out, but instead I was fired the very next day without any further dialogue.”

At the time, Andiola’s advocacy bothered Our Revolution — which, like Sanders, supported using must-pass funding bills to get a permanent DACA solution through Congress — when it crossed powerful Democrats. Andiola retweeted a video of activists crashing a news conference being held by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and tweeted other videos of activists sitting and singing inside the offices of Democrats whose votes on the plan were already secure.

But on Tuesday, Turner took a diplomatic approach to the criticism.

“I was sorry to see Erika Andiola’s statement last night,” said Turner. “I have the utmost respect for her commitment to immigrant justice, and I wish her the absolute best. Given the sensitivity of personnel matters, I am unable to comment further.”