ALBUQUERQUE – A Republican congressional candidate in New Mexico is drawing criticism for questioning her Democratic opponent’s Native American heritage over her immigration views and because she wasn’t “raised on a reservation.”
During an on-air interview Thursday with “Fox & Friends,” Janice Arnold-Jones appeared to dismiss host Ainsley Earhardt’s assertion that Deb Haaland, a member of Laguna Pueblo, could become the nation’s first Native American woman in Congress.
“That’s what they say, yes,” Arnold-Jones responded.
Asked what she meant, Arnold-Jones said: “There’s no doubt that her lineage is Laguna, but she is a military brat, just like I am.”
Arnold-Jones went on to suggest that Haaland’s mention of her Native American background on the campaign trail “evokes images that she was raised on a reservation.”
Haaland has said she moved around as a child because of her parents’ service in the military.
Arnold-Jones also said she was “confused” by some of Haaland’s immigration stances that include “advocating for open borders.”
“And the people most vulnerable: our sovereign tribes and pueblos where there is little law enforcement and they would be the most vulnerable,” Arnold-Jones said.
In addition, Arnold-Jones suggested Albuquerque’s high auto theft rates were linked to immigration, and stressed that Congress needed to “secure our borders.”
FBI data released last year showed that cities and towns along the U.S.-Mexico border had some of the nation’s lowest crime rates.
Democrats, including Haaland and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich to New Mexico gubernatorial hopeful Michelle Lujan Grisham, immediately denounced the Republican’s remarks as bigoted and insulting.
“My opponent’s assertion on Fox News (Thursday) that my parents’ military service means I am not Native American is racist, an assault on military families and wrong,” Haaland said. “I am proud to be a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, and I am proud of my parents’ service in both the Marines and the U.S. Navy.”
Heinrich’s senate campaign Twitter account sent a post in support of Haaland. “Janice Arnold-Jones’ false attack on Deb Haaland’s identity is an insult to every New Mexican, our shared heritage, and our values,” the account tweeted.
In an interview with KRQE-TV in Albuquerque, Arnold-Jones said she was confused by the uproar and didn’t think she said anything wrong. “I’m flabbergasted that somebody thinks that the facts are offensive,” Arnold-Jones told the station.
Haaland and Arnold-Jones are seeking to represent central New Mexico’s open U.S. House seat that has leaned Democratic in recent elections.