Don’t Go Away Mad!

Zimmerman’s Immigrant Affairs nominee withdraws

Wednesday afternoon, the Statesman reported that Rebecca Forest, District 6 Council Member Don Zimmerman’s nominee to the city’s Immigrant Affairs Commission, had decided to withdraw after broad City Council support for D4 CM Greg Casar’s proposal to rescind her appointment, due to her previous “bigoted” statements.

Responding to the opposition to her appointment, Zimmerman had described Forest as “a very, very thoughtful and deliberate person.” Her “thoughtful and deliberate” opinions include describing Central American refugees as “bio-weapons” and advocating the banning of Islam and the destruction of mosques.

Council Member Don Zimmerman (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Well publicized in the last few days have been Forest’s statements on Hispanic legislators – that Texas has too many of them, and “we need to change those numbers” to successfully pass anti-immigration legislation – and on Central American refugees (especially children), who are allegedly “bio-weapons” employed by a “Muslim president” to bring “serious illnesses” into the U.S. Zimmerman responded that Forest only opposes illegal immigration, and that she has supported “rule-of-law” Hispanic legislators “who uphold and defend immigration laws.” In a press release, he pointed to a PolitiFact report confirming that states with fewer Hispanic legislators have tended to pass more anti-immigration legislation – while ignoring the actual thrust of Forest’s remarks, that accordingly, Hispanic legislators need to be voted out of the Texas Legislature.

At Tuesday's work session, Casar noted Forest’s August, 2014 Facebook post – excoriating President Obama for his “little relocation program of BIO-WEAPONS” (i.e., Central American refugees, mostly children, fleeing violence and poverty and arriving in Texas). Casar and the rest of Council found that post and her 2011 remarks offensive enough to conclude that Forest does not belong on the Commission, and the public pressure apparently convinced Forest to withdraw.

But even that’s not the whole story. An alert reader spotted yet another Forest FB post – this one (Nov., 2013) applauding (predominantly Christian) Angola for acting to ban the practice of Islam and for shutting down and allegedly destroying mosques. Setting aside her post’s accuracy about Angola (the photo appears to be borrowed from “Britain First,” a hard-right English nationalist political party that staged invasions and desecrations of mosques), Forest applauds the notion of banning Islam and destroying mosques – and moreover suggests that if our cowardly public officials won’t do it, they should “get out of the way” and let “REAL patriots” do the job.

Rebecca Forest Facebook post

At the Tuesday work session, Zimmerman told his colleagues that the rejection of Forest belies Austin’s claim of “tolerance.” “The irony of this is,” he said, “that this city preaches diversity, inclusion, tolerance, and so this could be the first exercise of the Council of intolerance toward a particular appointee.” Zimmerman apparently believes that “tolerance” requires approving the appointment of a commissioner who describes political refugees as “bio-weapons” and has called for the banning of Islam and the destruction of U.S. mosques – by vigilante action if necessary. (Late Wednesday, Zimmerman released a withdrawal letter from Forest, which reads in part: "Time and time again I have stated that I do not care where people come from, I just want them to obey our laws, come legally, speak our language and assimilate -- become 'Americans.'" Presumably, once they become Forest-approved "Americans," they can join vigilante groups attacking non-Christian religious facilities.)

In explaining his resolution (now apparently moot) to rescind Forest’s appointment, Casar said in a release: “There is a clear difference between having a diversity of opinions on public policy, and the bigoted remarks that Ms. Forest has expressed. If we do not rescind this appointment before the appointments become active in July, then we are effectively endorsing Ms. Forest’s appointment, with full knowledge of her disparaging remarks toward Hispanics, immigrant children, Muslims, and other communities of color.’

”Besides this appointee’s untenable positions, her statements reflect a strain of thought that people have fought and died to keep out of our government throughout our country’s history.”

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City Council 2015, Rebecca Forest, Don Zimmerman, Rebecca Forest, Greg Casar

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