The Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Friday issued a statement condemning Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, for using a “hateful” racial slur about Latinos in an interview published Thursday.
Young, a 79-year-old congressman, said during an interview with a local radio station that his father’s ranch employed “50 to 60 wetbacks” to “pick tomatoes.”
“Shame on Rep. Don Young,” CHC Chairman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Texas, said in the statement. “It is deeply disheartening that in 2013 we are forced to have a discussion about a member of Congress using such hateful words and racial slurs.
“I agree that now, more than ever, we must resolve the many issues of our broken immigration system, but as we move forward, it’s important that our Republican colleagues are mindful of how words have consequences,” Hinojosa continued. “When elected officials use racial slurs, it sets back our nation and sets back legislators who are seriously working toward real, bipartisan solutions.”
Young has since attempted to explain the remarks, saying that he was just repeated the language of his youth. This justification did not satisfy the CHC.
“Rep. Young says that he was just using the language he was accustomed to as he grew up, but there is no excuse for ignorance,” the statement continued. “He has served alongside Hispanics in Congress since 1973, so he should know terms like ‘wetback’ have never been acceptable.”
Republicans have been talking up their efforts to do minority outreach in the wake of the 2012 election, when Democrats defeated them decisively among blacks, Latinos and women voters.
Meanwhile, for the first time in six years, Republicans have returned to the table to discuss immigration reform in Congress. The CHC used Young’s statement as a moment to shoot an arrow across the bow.
“As the Republican minority outreach efforts develop, I’d advise their strategists to list ‘don’t say racial slurs like “wetback”’ as a bedrock for their messaging,” Hinojosa said.
Additionally, freshman Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, tweeted about the Alaskan’s comments, saying, “Mr. Young, your words are disgusting.”
Abby Livingston contributed to this report.