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By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN
Cal State Bakersfield sociology professor Gonzalo Santos offered a different take on his encounter with U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, over immigration reform.
Santos, 63, said Tuesday on "First Look with Scott Cox" that he didn't threaten the congressman.
Californian President and CEO Richard Beene asked Santos about the conversation he had with McCarthy that led McCarthy to say he felt threatened. In his "Bakersfield Observed" blog Monday, Beene wrote that McCarthy claims Santos threatened him, giving him a three-month timeline to pass immigration reform or protestors would make his life painful.
"I just told him the truth and it looks like he took it as a threat but that was not my intention," Santos said Tuesday. "I was politically criticizing him not criticizing him personally."
McCarthy has said in previous reports that he acknowledges a need to fix the "broken" immigration system currently in place, though he rejects the idea of a full House vote on the Senate bill.
Santos read from a list of points he talked about with McCarthy; Beene said there was a different tone in the questions than the one he heard in a conversation he had with McCarthy last week.
"I just became a U.S. citizen and I was speaking up as a citizen and I told him that the GOP had a long term to build bridges with the Latino community but they had failed to do so," Santos said. "It's time that they seriously address the issues."
Santos was a part of the pilgrimage for a pathway to citizenship that walked for 21 days, holding public events about immigration reform along the way.
Along their walk, the pilgrims asked congressional representatives whether they support a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants in the country, and would they vote to repeal the Safe Act in Arizona that Santos believes criminalizes immigrants through racial profiling.
Beene brought up a point in regard to the Safe Act and said that if he were in Europe and was stopped by law enforcement, he would probably be asked to show his passport. So what was the difference being asked in the U.S.?
"Here you don't have trained law enforcement to do so," Santos said. "Latino communities are alienated and fearful because they fear they will be arrested for immigration purposes."
Santos said students tell him about their family members being deported. They live in fear of persecution and their families are torn, he said.
"The immigrants aren't breaking the law, the law is breaking them," Santos said.
With immigration reform a hot topic, Beene asked Santos whether he thought the current focus on Syria would push the immigration debate further down the line.
Santos said he felt the Syria topic was just another excuse not to get immigration reform fixed this year and sees the GOP pushing it as far back as 2015.