Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia has a message for the man who left her a vitriolic voicemail telling the newly-elected official to “go back to where you came from."
“I’m not going anywhere,” Mejia said.
On Wednesday, Mejia shared her response to the unidentified person in a five-minute video she posted to YouTube, using the the hate-filled phone call as a backdrop for her family’s immigration story while also highlighting images from rallies for equal rights.
She decided to make the call public to shed light on the types of comments and behavior that have become “all too familiar to myself and those in the immigrant community," she said in a tweet.
“I will not be intimidated by these words of hate, but rather use this as a way to speak up for others who have received this bullying,” she said.
In a subsequent tweet, Mejia added, “If this can happen to me, imagine what happens to those who aren’t public officials. This issue transcends immigrant status and affects all marginalized communities like LGBTQ+ and those living in poverty.”
The voicemail, which was received by her office on Jan. 17, begins with the man calling Mejia — Boston’s first-ever Afro-Latina city councilor — a bigot. The caller launches into a series of inflammatory remarks, including a threat to call President Trump’s office to “do something about you, and the rest of you fascists.”
At least some of the man’s anger seems to stem from the fact that Mejia’s mother immigrated to the US from the Dominican Republic, on a visa that she later overstayed. She has since become a citizen.
“Apples don’t fall far from the tree," the man says to Mejia, who became a naturalized citizen herself nearly three decades ago. “Your mother was a criminal, too, for coming over here illegally. You have no respect for our laws ...You, lady, are a criminal.”
The man goes on to call her a “hater” and a racist, and threatens the possibility of a “fight" by referencing World War II and the Vietnam War.
“And send ICE into Boston,” he says. “You should be the first one arrested. You should be put in handcuffs and deported. ...You don’t like it here? Go back to where you came from.”
But as his angry words play, the video cuts to images of Mejia with her mother and daughter, as well as pictures of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and rallies for gay rights and equality. Mejia’s commentary and response to the caller is peppered throughout the clip, and discusses her mission to fight for “sanctuary safe spaces” in the city, a proposal she called for during her first speech at City Hall last week, two days before receiving the phone call.
“This is near and dear to me, because for me, I work with a lot of families who are still undocumented,” says Mejia, who secured her at-large seat by a single vote during a December recount. “And my mom, as you know, was undocumented at one point. But she’s now a super-voter — which means you can’t mess with her either.”
In a third tweet from her account Wednesday, Mejia urged those who who disagree with her on certain policies and viewpoints to meet with her to discuss their differences.
“This #MejiaMovement is about bringing people together," she wrote. "We’re not calling you out, we’re inviting you in.”
Many people came to Mejia’s defense on Twitter this week after she shared the threatening message and YouTube video.
“I am proud to have been a volunteer on your campaign and look forward to you pushing the @BOSCityCouncil to fight for the marginalized people of our community,” one person wrote.
Another supporter added, “We are lucky to have you as one of our City Councilors here in Boston.”
I received a voicemail on January 17th that was all too familiar to myself and those in the immigrant community. I will not be intimidated by these words of hate, but rather use this as a way to speak up for others who have received this bullying.— Julia Mejia (@juliaforboston) January 22, 2020
#AllMeansAll and this means standing up to hate & bullying by taking back our power. I ask those who disagree with me to meet with me so we can discuss our differences. This #MejiaMovement is about bringing people together. We’re not calling you out, we’re inviting you in.— Julia Mejia (@juliaforboston) January 22, 2020
Steve Annear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.