Progressive Democrats in Arizona believed back in 2018 that by supporting Krysten Sinema for senator, they’d have a much-needed ally in the state. What they got was just another combative Karen taking up space and thwarting progress. And they're fuming about it.
So it couldn’t have been too much of a surprise when a group of young activists from Living United for Change (LUCHA) paid a visit to Sinema’s classroom at Arizona State University to demand to speak with her about her opposition to President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, sending the freshman senator running for cover in a bathroom stall.
The youth organizers published video of the encounter via Twitter. They were forced to follow Sinema into the bathroom because she refused to speak with them.
“We need to hold you accountable to what you told us, what you promised us that you were going to pass when we knocked on doors for you,” an activist identified as Blanca says in the footage. “It’s not right.”
The video has garnered over 4.7 million views.
Blanca tells the senator that she was brought to the U.S. when she was 3 years old. "In 2020 both my grandparents got deported because of SB 1070 and I'm here because I believe we need a pathway to citizenship. My grandfather passed away two weeks ago and I wasn't able to go to Mexico because there is no pathway to citizenship."
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), SB 1070 is one of Arizona’s most controversial anti-immigrant laws.
The Supreme Court has upheld SB 1070's notorious "show me yours papers" provision, deciding that it is not preempted by federal law. This provision has been blocked by lower courts in Arizona and other copycat states until now. Discriminatory laws like SB 1070 invite racial profiling of Latinos and others who may look or sound "foreign," including many U.S. citizens who have lived in American their entire lives.
In a statement shared with The Arizona Republic on Sunday, a spokesperson for Sinema said: "We are not dignifying this behavior with a response."
On Monday, Sinema issued a statement blasting the young activists.
"Yesterday's behavior was not legitimate protest," Sinema's statement said. "It is unacceptable for activist organizations to instruct their members to jeopardize themselves by engaging in unlawful activities such as gaining entry to closed university buildings, disrupting learning environments, and filming students in a restroom.
"The activist group that engaged in yesterday's behavior is one that both my team and I have met with several times since I was elected to the Senate, and I will continue engaging with Arizonans with diverse viewpoints to help inform my work for Arizona," Sinema's statement added.
LUCHA communications manager César Fierros told The Hill via email: "Senator Sinema has ignored us and all the people who fought hardest to elect her for years. He adds: "She’s denied our requests, ignored our phone calls, and closed her office to her constituents. She hasn’t had a public event or town hall in years. No one wants to meet with their senator in the restroom. But it seems like there’s a price tag of several hundred thousand dollars to meet with her anywhere else," Fierros added.
On Friday, Oct. 1, Sinema abruptly left Washington, D.C. for a medical appointment for a foot injury, according to her spokesperson. According to Mother Jones, she instead attended a fundraising “retreat” for her political action committee at a high-end Phoenix resort and spa on Saturday—the second time she’s attended similar events with folks opposing Biden’s bill.
Sinema—along with Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia—has outraged progressive Democrats with her continued and vehement opposition of the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act, claiming the legislation is too costly.
Sinema has broken with her party on minimum wage as well, voting against raising it to $15 an hour, and she opposes the Democratic efforts to end the Senate filibuster.
In recent polling, Sinema is more popular in Arizona with the GOP than she is with many Democrats.
When President Biden was asked about the activists’ tactics with Sinema, he dismissed it as par for the course.