Arizona Republicans are calling on a state lawmaker in their own party to resign after he said there weren't "enough white kids to go around" in the state's public school and that immigration "represents an existential threat to the United States."
State Rep. David Stringer made the comments at the Yavapai County Republican Men's Forum on Monday, where the lawmaker seemed to bemoan the number of minority children in the state's public schools.
"That complicates racial integration because there aren't enough white kids to go around," Stringer said in his comments. "It's going to change the demographic voting base of this state and that's what's going on around the country. Immigration is politically destabilizing."
On Thursday, Stringer tried to defend his comments, telling a local newspaper that Latinos, Asians, and African Americans have not fully integrated to American society. Hours later, the state Republican party chair called on him to step down.
"In light of today's reports detailing Representative David Stringer's comments, I am calling on him to resign immediately," Republican Chairman Jonathan Lines said in a statement. "These words have no place in our party, or in our state."
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey's spokesman, Daniel Scarpinato, said the governor was also calling on Stringer to step down in light of his comments.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Stringer said his comments were distorted by political opponents, and doubled down on his remarks, saying the country was, "in the throes of rapid demographic change," which was putting a strain on "important institutions of our society, including schools, prisons and our health care system."
"I'm not interested in taking the fake news bait," Stringer said. "My comments about school integration were factually accurate and were intended to illustrate the challenges facing successful integration when white students are a rapidly declining percentage of the whole."
The comments, however have drawn sharp rebukes, including from Stringer's own political party.
"David Stringer's comments do not in any way reflect the beliefs or values of Chairman [Jonathan] Lines or the Arizona Republican Party," Ayshia Connors, spokesperson for the Arizona Republican Party, told BuzzFeed News in a statement. "He should apologize to his constituents, and to the people of Arizona. We are proud of our diverse, vibrant state and believe that Mr. Stringer's comments have no place in our party, or in the state of Arizona."
Arizona's Speaker of the House, J.D. Mesnard, also spoke out against Stringer's comments.
"I completely disagree that immigration poses a threat to the United States," Mesnard said in a statement. "While some find challenge in diversity, I believe that any challenge makes us better for it."
Mesnard added that he was dissolving the criminal justice reform committee that Stringer had been chairing. However, Mesnard did not call on him to resign, saying that Stringer's future would be "up to him and the voters of District 1."
Stringer's comments were first spread on social media by David Schapira, a Democrat running for Arizona's public school superintendent.
Speaking before the Yavapai County Republican Men's Forum, Stringer linked his comments on immigration to President Trump, who has pushed for a crackdown at the southern border and has himself been criticized for his rhetoric against immigrants.
"President Trump has talked about this, I'm very concerned about this," Stringer said. "If we don't do something about immigration very, very soon, the demographics of our country will be irrevocably changed and we will be a very different country. We will not be the country that you were born in."
Stringer told The Daily Courier in Prescott, Arizona that his words were meant to be a warning to his audience, saying previous immigration waves — specifically from European countries — were different that the current immigration pattern.
"So if you're Swede, a Norwegian, an Irishman and a Frenchman, after the second or third generation, your kids are all alike," he told the paper. "They don't have any accents. They're indistinguishable."
Latinos, Asians, and even African Americans, Stringer told the paper, have not fully integrated into American society.
"Talk to Asians," he said. "Even though they're affluent, they're an educated, cultured group, they still have a sense of maybe not fully participating in American life."
Stringer, who was voted into office in 2016, claimed even African-Americans, "still have not been fully assimilated into American culture."
The Anti-Defamation League's Arizona chapter also spoke out against Stringer's words, calling them "shockingly inappropriate."
"Arizona's cultural and ethnic diversity is its greatest strength, not a reason to sow fear and division," Rebecca Rios, Arizona house minority leader, told BuzzFeed News in a statement.
She called Stringer's comments reprehensible and a "source of national embarrassment for our state."
"We work side by side with Rep. Stringer and our Republican colleagues and want to think the best of them," she said. "But when will they stand up to divisive rhetoric like this that echoes fervent racists and white nationalists like David Duke?"
Stringer's statement did not directly address Republican calls for him to resign.
"I am not afraid of conservative bigwigs and I'm not afraid of liberal bullies either," he said. "Anyone who doubts this is welcome to come hear me speak and judge for yourself if I am a truth teller."