State Rep. David Stringer has been facing calls to resign after he said African Americans and other racial groups don't blend in at a US University. Picture: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

Arizona - An Arizona legislator who suggested that only white immigrants have been successfully assimilated into American society has been banned from the largest school district in the community that he represents, according to a letter sent to parents and teachers on Wednesday.

State Rep. David Stringer has been facing calls to resign since last Friday, when the Phoenix New Times published an audio recording of him talking with a group of Arizona State University students who had approached him after a lecture. The Republican lawmaker had commented that "diversity in our country is relatively new," prompting one student to remind him about early waves of immigration from Italy and Ireland.

"They were all European," Stringer countered. "So after their second or third generation, everybody looks the same. Everybody talks the same. But that's not the case with African Americans and other racial groups because they don't melt in. They don't blend in. They always look different."

Later, when a student pointed out that Polish immigrants had faced discrimination when they first arrived in the United States, Stringer replied, "The difference between the Polish-American immigrant and the immigrant from Somalia is the second-generation Polish immigrant looks like the Irish kid and the German kid and every other kid. But the immigrant from Somalia does not."

Those comments didn't sit well with the Humboldt Unified School District, which serves roughly 5,700 students in rural, conservative Yavapai County. According to the Daily Courier, superintendent Dan Streeter sent a letter to parents, faculty and administrators saying that Stringer would no longer be welcome at any of the district's 10 campuses, and had been barred from attending school-related forums and other events.

"Mr. Stringer has demonstrated a pattern of unacceptable public comments that confirm that he is unable to meet the minimum expectations that our administrators, board members, teachers, support staff, and families have set for participants in our educational community," he wrote. "Viewed in the best light, these comments can be understood as incredibly insensitive, but a plain reading reveals blatant racism."

Stringer could not be reached for comment, but defended his remarks during a Thursday night town council meeting in his legislative district. "I believe that everything I've said - if you look at what I actually said - is defensible, that it is truthful, that it is factually accurate, that it can be supported by academic research," he said.

Pointing out that he had received 67 023 votes in the November election, the second-highest of any member of the Arizona House of Representatives, Stringer said that he had "no intention of resigning."

"I am not going to disenfranchise the thousands and thousands of people who just returned me to office a month ago," he said.

Stringer, who worked as an attorney in the Washington, D.C. area before relocating to Arizona and was first elected to the state legislature in 2016, has repeatedly lamented America's changing demographics. Speaking at a public forum as a candidate in 2016, he said, "I think immigration is a huge problem, it is destroying our country, it is tearing us apart, it will inevitably - if we don't do something about it - result in some kind of civil disorder and a dissolution of the United States as we know it." The following year, he published an opinion column in the Prescott eNews, an online publication whose parent company he co-owns, which concluded, "The United States may be the first nation in history to voluntarily surrender its traditional culture and national identity to other peoples. We are only beginning to experience the consequences."

In June, the Republican lawmaker made national headlines when he described immigration as an "existential threat to the United States." Arizona Republican Party Chairman Jonathan Lines demanded his resignation, as did Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who said that Stringer had "basically disqualified himself to lead at the state level." Stringer ignored their calls to step down and instead doubled down on his remarks in an interview with Capitol Media Services, where he said that Asian Americans "still have a sense of maybe not fully participating in American life" and African Americans "have not been fully assimilated into American culture.''

This week, Ducey and Lines once again renewed their requests for Stringer's resignation and were joined by other prominent Republican leaders. Meanwhile, a local branch of the NAACP threatened to boycott the city of Prescott, where the lawmaker lives.

"Until Rep. Stringer is removed from office, the NAACP will recommend a travel advisory on the City of Prescott advising our members, supporters and allies to discontinue any shopping, travel, and lodging in hotels in Prescott, AZ effective immediately," Roy Tatem Jr., president of the NAACP's East Valley chapter, wrote in a letter to Republican State Rep. Rusty Bowers, the incoming speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives.

But Prescott - a city of roughly 40 000 people that supported President Donald Trump by a 14-point margin and is best known for its annual Christmas parade - has also repudiated Stringer. On Tuesday, the same day that the NAACP's letter was sent, the city council held a special meeting and voted to request Stringer's immediate resignation, saying that he could no longer effectively represent them.

"As proud members of this community, we are horrified that the opinions expressed by Mr. Stringer exist," the resolution approved by the council said. "Prescott prides itself on respect, honour, tradition and the physical embodiment of the spirit of Christmas. Mr. Stringer's misguided, outdated and offensive opinions reflect poorly and inaccurately on all of us."

On Thursday night, Martin Grossman, a council member in the neighbouring town of Prescott Valley, made a similar appeal to the embattled lawmaker, telling him that his effectiveness as a representative for the area was "minus zero."

"I think the best thing you could do for this community - if you really do love this community as you say you do - is to resign," he said.

The Washington Post