Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Did OC Rep. Dana Rohrabacher make an immigrant student cry?

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Kitty Felde/KPCC

Orange County Congressman Dana Rohrabacher - an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration - is the subject of reports that he traded harsh words with constituents who visited his office to discuss the issue.

Republican SoCal Congressman Dana Rohrabacher got into some kind of contretemps with an immigrant student from Huntington Beach's Golden West College last week, but the nature of that set-to is unclear, according to a story in The Hill.

Did Rohrabacher make the student cry? Did he threaten to have her deported?

Jessica Bravo, a freshman at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, completed an online  form requesting a meeting with her member of Congress to talk about the issue of immigration. Bravo is an undocumented immigrant.

Last week, she sat down with Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) to tell her story. Accompanying her was Minerva Gomez, an activist with the Orange County Congregation Community Organization, who had been an undocumented student a few years ago.

There's some dispute about what happened next.

The Hill reports that Bravo says Rohrabacher made her cry, yelling and pointing at her when she told him she was an undocumeted immigrant: "He kept interrupting me, and he was just, like, 'Oh, you know, I love Mexicans, but I hate illegals.'"

But Rohrabacher's press deputy, Tara Setmayer — who sat in on the 10-minute meeting — says things went south after Minerva Gomez accused Rohrabacher of racism, saying he opposed a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants because of the "color of their skin." Setmayer, a woman of color, intevened, saying race wasn't the issue. Gomez told her to butt out, and Rohrabacher jumped in, saying he wouldn't allow anyone to disrespect his staff.

The two Orange  County women say Rohrabacher implied he could have them deported because they had filled out the form for an interview, and he knew where they lived. Setmayer says he asked if the office had their contact information. She dismisses as "ridiculous" the notion that Rohrabacher would call immigration officials.

Setmayer says the Congressman was "polite and even friendly" to Bravo, who became quite emotional as she told her story. Setmayer says that at no point did  Rohrabacher direct his ire at the young girl, who Setmayer describes as a "pawn" of organizations "exploiting her emotional vunlerability and naivete."

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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