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A Republican Orange County supervisor has publicly pushed back against language President Trump used calling on four non-white U.S. congresswomen to “go back” to their countries.

Supervisor Andrew Do called such language “bigotry” and related it to “hatred” he said led to assaults against his family when he was growing up as a Vietnamese refugee in Orange County. His family immigrated after South Vietnam fell to North Vietnam in 1975.

“It’s a very narrow line between classifying people by color, and then the next step is to ‘go back to where you come from.’ I have to push back on that type of close-mindedness, bigotry,” Do said at the Tuesday, July 16 meeting of the county Board of Supervisors.

“I grew up with people using the exact same language – the exact same way that they viewed me,” Do continued. “And it was a narrow line from that motivation to the hatred they filled their life with that led to me being – and my family being – assaulted over and over. And I will be damned if I am going to accept, without fighting back, one more day of that type of bigotry.”

Do, of Garden Grove, a Republican elected official in Orange County for more than a decade, spoke after a public commenter said he and other non-white county supervisors were “immigrants” who “don’t know” the First Amendment right to free speech.

In his response, Do did not mention President Trump by name, but challenged the “go back” language the president used two days earlier that sparked a nationwide conversation.

In a series of tweets July 14, the president said the Democratic congresswomen, who are U.S. citizens, “originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe,” and suggested they “go back” to “the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

Three of the four congresswomen were born in the United States, and the fourth, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Somalia and immigrated when she was 12 years old.

On Tuesday July 16, the day of Do’s comments, the U.S. House of Representatives, voting almost entirely along party lines, passed a resolution calling the president’s remarks “racist comments that have legitimized increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.”

The president and many of his supporters have defended his remarks as not being racist, with Trump saying he does not “have a Racist bone in my body!”
Other Republicans have said they disagree vehemently with the congresswomen’s views, but have criticized the president’s remarks.

Do’s remarks came after a public commenter criticized Do and other county supervisors as being immigrants who don’t respect the First Amendment right to free speech.

“Typically I have immigrants and minorities bragging to me how they know the law better than somebody such as myself who has three or four generations under my belt,” Brian Kaye told the supervisors. He then pointed to Do and other supervisors who are first or second-generation immigrants.

“I stand here and I see three immigrants – four immigrants, a white man, and an old white man, who don’t know that First Amendment. And they’re making decisions,” Kaye said.

A few minutes later, Do challenged those remarks as being beyond racist, and brought up the phrase used by the president.

“This week of all [weeks], I have to push back,” Do said. “The idea that you are going to classify people by the color of their skin and imply that they are any less American – the word ‘racist’ doesn’t even begin to describe the level of ignorance that is. And so, when you point to people up here and you call them immigrants, without knowing the facts, you’re ignorant.”

“In this day and age, it’s a very narrow line between classifying people by color, and then the next step is to ‘go back to where you come from.’ I have to push back on that type of close-mindedness, bigotry,” he added.

One of Do’s colleagues, Supervisor Don Wagner, briefly spoke in support of the county’s diversity.

“As one of those old white guys, it is a privilege to serve on a board that reflects the incredible, rich diversity of this county,” Wagner said.

The other three supervisors did not speak about the issue.

Orange County’s racial diversity has grown considerably over the decades, from 14 percent non-white in 1970 to about 60 percent today, according to U.S. Census data.

The county is now 40 percent white, 34 percent Latino, and 21 percent Asian, according to latest Census estimates.

About 30 percent of Orange County residents were born outside the United States – or roughly 1 million of the county’s 3.2 million residents, according to the Census.

Do’s district, in particular, is heavily immigrant, with more than 40 percent of 1st District residents born outside the United States, according to Census data.

Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.

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