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A constituent approaches Sen. Kyrsten Sinema

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) boards an elevator following votes at the U.S. Capitol on September 20, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Sinema was captured on video on Monday ignoring Karina Ruiz, a constituent and executive director of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, when she asked her to commit to voting in favor of immigrants' rights by supporting the Build Back Better Act. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images))

'Disgraceful': Watch Kyrsten Sinema Ignore Constituent's Heartfelt Plea on Immigration

"If Karina was a corporation and held a giant fundraiser for Sinema, maybe she'd get an answer," said one advocate.

Julia Conley

Progressive critics on Tuesday accused Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of "callousness" and contempt for those she represents after video circulated of the senator refusing to acknowledge a constituent's personal plea regarding the inclusion of immigration reform in the Democrat's pending reconciliation package.
 
Karina Ruiz, executive director of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition (ADAC) and a former volunteer on Sinema's election campaign, approached Sinema on a flight to ask for her commitment to helping pass the spending package that would invest in the well-being of working families including immigrants, which Democrats hope to pass through the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process.
 
"Senator, hello, how are you?" Ruiz said. "I'm Karina, I don't know if you remember me. I just want to know if you can commit as my senator to passing a reconciliation [bill] that could provide a pathway to citizenship for immigrants. We have been waiting for this for too long."
 
The senator turned to look at Ruiz only briefly and didn't respond as she shared her story of her father dying without being able to reunite with her family.
 
 
"I'm just asking you a simple question," Ruiz said. "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 just want to see if I can get a commitment from you, Senator."

"When the easiest way to get a senator’s attention is to purchase a plate at a fundraising dinner... people have few other options to make themselves heard."
—Sarah Jones, New York

 
"This is my life and the life of millions," she added.
 
The package includes a pathway to citizenship for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program like Ruiz, as well as other undocumented immigrants.
 
Sinema's refusal to respond to Ruiz drew the ire of progressives who noted that the video was taken days after the senator hosted a fundraiser where she collected donation checks between $1,000 and $5,800 from corporate lobbyists who are fighting the passage of the Build Back Better Act.
 
"If Karina was a corporation and held a giant fundraiser for Sinema, maybe she'd get an answer," tweeted organizer Jordan Uhl.
 
Sinema was also confronted after her flight landed by constituents who followed her briefly, demanding to know what she hopes to cut from the spending package.
 
"Do you want to cut climate priorities? Is it elder care that you want to cut or is it child care?" asked a woman as the senator spoke on her cell phone. "I'm just trying to get an explanation for the American people."
 
 
The two confrontations happened days after a group of activists in Arizona followed Sinema into a public restroom to ask her to support the reconciliation package—an incident the senator derided as "not legitimate" but which President Joe Biden called "part of the process" of public service in a democracy.
 
 
At New York magazine on Monday, columnist Sarah Jones wrote that the voters who helped elect Sinema have been left with few choices as they attempt to hold her accountable, as the senator, who hasn't held a town hall in three years, has chosen to ignore members of the public like Ruiz.
 
"Politicians have undeniably created an environment where policy disagreements, honestly held or otherwise, provoke so-called unacceptable behavior," Jones wrote. "Left unexamined, though, is Sinema's own complicity. When the easiest way to get a senator’s attention is to purchase a plate at a fundraising dinner, such as the one she flew back from Washington to attend, people have few other options to make themselves heard."

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