UPDATE: Sinema also just spoke on the floor of the Senate to announce her refusal to budge on the filibuster, even to pass voting rights legislation. Her cravenness knows no bounds.
Kyrsten Sinema may take a lot of heat for not talking to press, constituents, activists, or anyone else that isn’t already giving her money, but it’s becoming increasingly clear why she so vigilantly tries to maintain her silence: When Sinema does talk, she makes things even worse for herself.
The Arizona senator made her loyalties clear this fall when she traipsed her way through a circuit of lavish fundraisers while at the the same time refusing all requests to meet with her constituents or even speak to them when they arrived outside the expensive restaurants where she was collecting checks from lobbyists. One weekend in mid-October, Sinema ignored activists from LUCHA for nearly 48 hours straight, a marathon of snubs that culminated in a very mild confrontation in a bathroom at Arizona State University.
After refusing to address the young undocumented immigrants who wanted to discuss immigration reform with her, Sinema tried to shake them by ducking into a bathroom. Undeterred, the activists trained their camera on the front of the bathroom while continuing to ask Sinema questions.
Public uproar and outrage ensued, as Sinema’s colleagues in the Senate and many political pundits condemned the activists’ pursuit. People were mad at these activists for violating Sinema’s privacy — but as the police report from the incident reveals, Sinema knew exactly what she was doing:
Senator Sinema stated that… she was immediately confronted by four subjects who were video taping her and were insistent that she listen to them and their concerns about her policies.
Sinema stated this was not her first time being approached in this way and that’s why she entered the bathroom, knowing it was illegal for someone to record another person inside the bathroom. Sinema stated the subjects followed her into the bathroom and continued recording while yelling at her.
When she spoke with police, Sinema demanded that the activists “be held accountable” for their actions, apparently unaware (or uncaring) of the stunning hypocrisy of her request. After refusing to be held accountable by constituents who, by her own admission, simply wanted to talk about her policies, Sinema demanded that they themselves be held accountable.
It was a breathtaking display of cynicism, arrogance, and cruelty, because Sinema demanded that the activists be charged with felonies despite knowing full well that at least one of them was an undocumented immigrant. Even a felony charge against an undocumented immigrant could lead to their deportation, something of which a senator from Arizona would have been very well aware.
Thankfully, felony charges in a case like this are only applicable when someone is filming another person “urinating, defecating, dressing, undressing, nude” or having sex, so police were only able to hit the activists with misdemeanors.
According to the Arizona Mirror, which first reported on the police reports, one of the activists is a participant in DACA, which puts her perpetually in danger of losing her visa and being sent back to Mexico, a country she left at just three years old. Given the heat she’s already taking in her state — she’s facing a primary and a vote of no confidence from the Democratic Party — getting a Dreamer deported would be a pretty bad look for Sinema, but true to form, Sinema seems as if she couldn’t care less about either human consequences or her own reputation.
Police have reopened the investigation, presumably at Sinema’s behest, as her staff says that even with all the details laid out before her, the senator is still not relenting.
Three months after the incident, Sinema still believes the activists committed a crime, her office told the Mirror in an email.
Her spokesman says that she hopes no one experiences any “immigration-related” consequences as a result of the event, yet she will say publicly that she believes they committed a crime even when the investigation is still open? She can’t have it both ways — either she drops it or continues to pursue her allegations in the public sphere.
Considering how often her office has said absolutely nothing on just about every other topic, their words here speak volumes.
The pursuit of injustice is even more stunning and painful given the fact that LUCHA, a hispanic-led grassroots political organization in Arizona, played a major role in turning the state blue and getting Sinema elected to the Senate in the first place.
As the organizing director for LUCHA told me last fall, Sinema was “someone we thought we could trust.” The senator’s decision to plunge the knife into the back of her one-time allies may help her raise money, but it may well backfire on her when it comes time for a primary in 2024.
“We’re going to continue to organize and we’re going to continue to show up to the polls, because that’s what’s going to change the system that we’ve been living under,” Stephanie Maldonado, the organizing director of LUCHA, told me.
“We’ve turned our frustration into action. It ignites us to keep fighting, to keep organizing, to keep building our power, to keep engaging with community. And even though yes there are setbacks, we use those setbacks as learning in order for us to continue engaging and building over time.”
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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.