The comments come as migrants are arriving at the southern border in large numbers to seek asylum and amid a national debate on immigration and racism. President Trump recently tweeted about a group of minority Democratic congresswomen, saying they should “go back” to where they came from even though all four are U.S. citizens and three are native born.
During her 25-minute speech, Allen, who did not immediately respond to requests for comment, spoke about her family’s deep roots in the country, her passion for liberty and her commitment to religious freedom. She also voiced concern about the large number of immigrants “just flooding us and flooding us and flooding us and overwhelming us.”
“We have a right as a country to have people come 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,” said Allen, a longtime representative of District 6 who lives in Snowflake.
In her apology, Allen defended her “browning” comments, attributing them to research by James H. Johnson Jr., a professor at the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School, and later posted a link on her Facebook page to a slide show of his research.
Johnson was surprised his research showed up in the speech.
“I was stunned,” he 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.”
In the speech, Allen claimed Arizona state Sen. Martín Quezada (D) opposed assimilation, and she voiced concerns about how America would look in the coming decade.
“When Senator Quezada says, ‘We don’t want to assimilate, we don’t want that.’ Well, 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?” Allen asked.
Quezada said Friday on Twitter that Allen “went out of her way to single me out because she sees people like me (and the majority of our K-12 students and anyone else who isn’t white) as a threat to her radically extremist and racist ideals. This isn’t good for AZ.”
He told the Arizona Republic he was surprised by the public nature of her comments but not surprised to hear the content. Quezada said Allen had misunderstood his past comments about acculturation and assimilation.
He told the newspaper that he sees acculturation as being part of a new culture while preserving past cultural ties, whereas assimilation means people giving up their culture for a new one.
Allen apologized Friday on Facebook “to anyone who has been hurt by my words.” She said her original speech referenced South American countries over “the concern that some of these countries are socialist and that we must preserve our Constitutional Republic form of government and that we have not taught the next generation the difference.”
Johnson said America’s “browning” means the population growth of nonwhite people in the country in the 21st century is going up swiftly as well as the number of people who marry outside their race.
“What it means is the nice and neat little crucibles we’re accustomed to putting people in won’t fit in the future because of the growing diversity of our population,” Johnson said. “And I view all of that as a strength, not as a weakness or a problem."
He said it will become more and more important to “embrace immigrants and people of color” for overall competitiveness in the future global marketplace.
Changing demographics have been used to stroke nativist sentiments — that white people are losing ground in America, according to an article in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s magazine. Heidi Beirich, who leads the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, wrote, “Nativists, racists and our president are taking advantage of the browning of America, contrasting it with nostalgia for a perceived better, whiter past, and using that idea to activate citizens into white nationalist thinking.”
The Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee compared Allen’s speech to comments made by former state representative David Stringer, who had said “there aren’t enough white kids to go around” and called immigration “an existential threat.” He resigned in March after members of both parties learned he was charged with sex crimes in the 1980s, according to the Arizona Republic.
Below one of her Facebook posts, Allen thanked supporters in a comment and wrote that “verbal Lynching is the political tool used today to silence debate on critical issues.”
Arizona has been at the forefront of the immigration debate because it shares a border with Mexico and has experienced a surge in arrivals of undocumented migrants.