Republican Arizona Rep. Debbie Lesko said last week that people of Hispanic origin are "very good workers," but that priority for COVID-19 vaccine distribution needs to be on those who "are here legally."
Lesko made the comments Thursday during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing as lawmakers debated an amendment that would have prioritized American citizens for coronavirus vaccination, which was ultimately shot down.
Democrats argued the change would not be effective in combating the spread of the coronavirus in Arizona, since the state relies on undocumented immigrants to work jobs that come with a higher exposure risk, AZCentral reports.
"I have worked with people that are Hispanic," Lesko said, nothing Arizona's diverse nature as a border state.
"You know, we're compassionate people, but for goodness sakes, we have to take care of American citizens, or people that are here legally, first," she added. "I'm just not going to be able to explain to my senior citizens that we're giving away the vaccines to people that [are] here illegally. I just think that's totally wrong."
Democratic Arizona Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoSinema's no Manchin, no McCain and no maverick Sinema trails potential primary challengers in progressive poll Hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops still unvaccinated ahead of first vaccine deadline: report MORE blasted Lesko's comments on Twitter, writing, "In a state that is 30% Latino she can’t even claim to have Latino friends. Just worked with them."
In a state that is 30% Latino she can’t even claim to have Latino friends. Just worked with them. https://t.co/mSxKHEd5hQ— Ruben Gallego (@RubenGallego) February 14, 2021
In a statement to The Hill, Lesko said defended her comments and support for the amendment.
"Taken in context, my remarks clearly were aimed at ensuring that seniors receive taxpayer-funded vaccines before illegal immigrants. During debate on the amendment, after being interrupted several times, I said something that could be misinterpreted, but it certainly was not my intent," she said.