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Arizona Rep. Jay Lawrence says bigot comment about refugees was ‘mistake’

(KTAR News File Photo)

PHOENIX — An Arizona lawmaker says a comment he made at a political event last week in which he admitted he was bigoted against refugees was a mistake.

Republican state Rep. Jay Lawrence, at a forum hosted by the Fountain Hills AZ Tea Party on Thursday, said he would use his position to make sure refugees didn’t come to Arizona because they would decrease the quality of life in the state and to call him a bigot for that belief.

Lawrence backtracked on the comment Tuesday, telling KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Gaydos and Chad Show that it stemmed from the federal government’s vetting of refugees and his concern with potentially harmful refugees entering Arizona.

“I have no problem with refugees,” Lawrence said. “I don’t believe the federal government properly vets refugees, so you don’t know what you’re getting.”

Lawrence, whose district includes Scottsdale, Fountain Hills and Rio Verde, has supported refugees coming to Arizona in the past.

He voted for a pro-refugee resolution in 2019 that applauded their contributions to the state’s economy.

Some of Arizona’s top politicians are in favor of the state taking in refugees.

Gov. Doug Ducey sent a letter to President Donald Trump’s administration in December announcing that the state would keep welcoming refugees vetted by U.S. agencies for resettlement in the United States.

Lawrence remains concerned that the federal government isn’t doing enough to screen potentially harmful refugees.

“There are many among them that mean us harm and the federal government is not my most trustworthy accomplice,” Lawrence said. “I don’t know they can be absolutely trusted to bring in refugees that have no ulterior motives with regard to harm.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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