January 30, 2015

NM Democratic lawmaker apologizes for Holocaust reference, Republican says it’s not enough

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Photo by Matthew Reichbach

A Democrat who made inflammatory remarks during a hearing on legislation related to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants apologized on Friday.

House Floor

Minority Caucus Chair Patricia Roybal Caballero, D-Albuquerque, apologized for comments she made a day prior in a committee meeting.

During the meeting, Roybal Caballero compared the proposed legislation to the Holocaust. During her apology, she said her party is committed to the issues.

“I regret my reference to the Holocaust made yesterday during a committee debate. I apologize to anyone who was hurt by my comments. I assure that House Democrats are focused on addressing the economy, education and poverty which New Mexico’s working families are facing every day,” Roybal Caballero said.

In the House Civil Affairs and Public Safety Committee on Thursday, Roybal Caballero told the committee that a bill limiting driver’s licenses reminded her of the Holocaust when Jewish Germans were forced to carry identification. Some committee members deemed her comments as inappropriate and out of line.

The committee’s chair, Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque, said he didn’t hear Caballero’s apology, but told New Mexico Political Report that Roybal Caballero owes him a personal apology.

“She has not apologized to me,” Rehm said. “She inferred that I am racist as well during the meeting.”

Rehm said her comments were “way out of line” and that her comments hurt the credibility of the entire committee. He said Minority Whip Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque also needed to apologize to him and the whole committee for what he called “the Jim Crow comments.”

Williams Stapleton told Rehm and the committee the bill was similar to segregation when “the little black kid couldn’t go into the same bathroom as the white kid.”

“I’m upset at both of them for their comments because those reflect on the entire committee and it’s function,” Rehm said.

Rehm said both comments “reflect poorly upon all committee members.”

The House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee was originally scheduled to hear two bills on increasing minimum wage Friday afternoon, a topic that will probably spark lengthy debate. The meeting was canceled due to snow.

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