Gabriela Saucedo Mercer, who won the Republican primary to challenge Democrat Raul Grijalva for Congress is getting national attention for comments she made about people from the Middle East. This February 2012 file photo shows her speaking at a Tucson Tea Party rally.

U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva is pointing to comments about illegal immigration made by his opponent a year ago to accuse her of using hate speech.

She has responded by saying the comments were taken out of context and by questioning Grijalva's campaign tactics.

Grijalva posted a video compilation of Saucedo Mercer's comments on his campaign's Facebook page Tuesday morning.

Saucedo Mercer "claims that 'Middle Easterners' are just here to hurt us, that they're trying to blend in as Mexicans and leaving 'prayer rugs and copies of the Koran' in the desert, and that she doesn't want them here 'legally or illegally,'" Grijalva said on Facebook.

Grijalva issued a news release saying, "This is reckless hate speech, and I call on everyone who has endorsed Gabriela Mercer to withdraw their support immediately."

"Is this all they have? Bring it on!" Saucedo Mercer posted on her own Facebook page discussion about the video compilation.

In the video compilation, titled "The Real Gabriela Mercer," Saucedo Mercer tells an interviewer authorities apprehended 25,000 illegal immigrants who were not Mexican nationals last year.

"That includes Chinese, Middle Easterners. If you know Middle Easterners, they look Mexican or like a lot of people in South America, dark skin, dark hair, brown eyes, and they mix in," she said. "And those people, their only goal in life is to cause harm to the United States, so why do we want them here, either legally or illegally?"

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a Washington DC-based civil rights group, issued a statement calling Saucedo Mercer's remarks illogical.

"ADC has tried to decipher and understand the logic behind such comments; however a conclusion was made that Mercer does not use any logic when she moves her lips to speak," the group said.

"The illogical comments and statements are rooted in xenophobia and have no place in politics or our national discourse."

Saucedo Mercer said the video was edited to be misleading and took comments out of context.

In the full video, an interview with the Western Free Press in June 2011, Saucedo Mercer is seen responding to the interviewer's specific question about "other than Mexican" immigrants and whether they concern her.


After the above excerpt used in the Grijalva campaign video, Saucedo Mercer continues in the full interview: "When they come across the border, besides the trash that they leave behind, the drug smuggling, the killings, the beheadings, you're seeing stuff, it's a war out there."

She made the comments to the online newspaper the Western Free Press in June 2011. Gov. Jan Brewer made comments about beheadings related to border violence in 2010.

At the time, there had been no known border beheadings in Arizona. One beheaded body was found this year northwest of Tucson.

The comment about beheadings was not used in the Grijalva campaign's compilation video.


"He (Grijalva) must be scared or something," Saucedo Mercer said at a primary-election night party Tuesday. "The tactics he's using to smear me as a racist are unconscionable."

Saucedo Mercer is herself a legal immigrant from Mexico.

"They took a bunch of things I said, put them in a video, and they’re all out of context. I am not a racist. I am not against Muslims and I am not against immigrants. Legal immigration is good. We are a country of immigrants.”

In the full version of the 30-minute interview with the Western Free Press, an Arizona-based online newspaper, Saucedo Mercer talks about the five-year process of becoming a naturalized citizen.

"This is a sovereign country ... we have a process to immigrate legally," she says in the video.

She also calls illegal immigration an "unfortunate" situation and she goes on to say no immigration reforms will be effective until the border is secured. She cites the double-layer fence in San Diego County as a success story and she criticizes humanitarian efforts to leave water in the desert.

The full Western Free Press interview can be viewed in two parts here and here.


A fact check of her comments on the number of apprehensions shows her number was quite high or quite low, depending on whether she meant to quote a regional or a national figure.

For the fiscal year ended Sept. 30 2011, Tucson sector Border Patrol agents apprehended 11,311 people from countries other than Mexico, according to Border Patrol statistics. That’s about 9 percent of the total apprehensions that year.

All agents on all U.S. borders apprehended about 54,000 people from countries other than Mexico that year, or about 16 percent of all apprehensions, the statistics show.

Additionally, Border Patrol agents apprehended an average of 339 people from "special-interest countries" - those that warrant special handling based on terrorism risk factors - at the U.S.-Mexico border each year over the past six years, Homeland Security data show. That's less than 1 percent each year of the total apprehensions along the U.S.-Mexico border, Homeland Security figures show.

Star reporters Kim Smith and Tim Steller contributed to this article.