Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona ignored Karina Ruiz, a local leader who advocates for immigrant communities, when the activist approached her on a flight to Washington, D.C., Monday to urge the senator to commit to passing a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.
In a video she posted on social media, Ruiz walked down the airplane aisle and stopped next to Sinema, who was sitting in an aisle seat with a laptop in front of her and wireless earbuds in her ears.
“I'm being vulnerable right now to you. My dad passed away last year, and he didn't get to reunite with my family. I don't want to disturb you, but at the same time, I want to see if I can get a commitment from you, Senator," Ruiz said.
Sinema sat silently, staring down.
“This is my life and the life of millions," Ruiz continued. “I'd just like to hear from you. Can we get a commitment from you to get a pathway to citizenship for millions like me?"
Sinema continued to sit silently, staring down.
“All right, Senator, you don't want to respond. Thank you for your time," Ruiz said, and walked away.
For years, Ruiz has pushed for different versions of federal legislation that would give thousands of immigrants like her, who arrived in the country at a young age, and her family a pathway to citizenship. Locally, as a leader of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, Ruiz has worked to reform state laws that prevent undocumented students from accessing in-state tuition.
Recently, Ruiz has held rallies in Phoenix and traveled to D.C. several times to push Democrats to pass a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. A plan in the Senate to do that through a budget process stalled.
For most of the year, groups locally and nationally have campaigned to get Sinema to take meaningful steps to pass legislation to expand voting rights, election reform and legislation that guarantees a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented youth, workers, farmerworks and adults. The recent meetings Sinema has taken with wealthy donors and corporate opponents of Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan has also drawn ire.
Over the weekend, a community group that has been pivotal in activating the Latino, working class and immigrant electorate in Arizona disrupted Sinema's fundraising event and showed up outside her classroom at Arizona State University on Sunday. As they tried to talk to her, Sinema walked past them and went into a bathroom. One of the organizers with LUCHA followed her and spoke about her immigrant family.
Sinema, in a statement, said those who disrupted her class engaged in “unlawful activities," “deceptively entered a locked, secure building" and held a protest that “was not legitimate."
Biden and Arizona's other senator, Mark Kelly, called the disruptive action at ASU that led activists to follow Sinema into the bathroom “inappropriate."
LUCHA said the group helped elect Sinema, who they said has been completely inaccessible to the public since her term in the Senate began in 2019.
“Sinema's constituents have not been granted access to her office, they have been ignored, dismissed and antagonized," said Alejandra Gomez and Tomas Robles, co-directors of LUCHA, in a statement.
Sinema declined to hold public town halls in Phoenix after the board of the Arizona Democratic Party suggested she did months ago, said Brianna Westbrook, education coordinator for AZ Dems, on Twitter.
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