Texas state lawmaker says he received racist calls after House floor scuffle

A Texas lawmaker said his office received racist phone calls on Monday evening.

ByABC News
May 30, 2017, 5:47 PM

— -- A Texas lawmaker said his office received racist phone calls on Monday evening, just hours after a fight broke out on the floor of the state's House of Representatives.

Democratic Texas Rep. Cesar Blanco said the scuffle between lawmakers -- which reportedly occurred after state Rep. Matt Rinaldi, a Republican, told House Democrats that he had called immigration services on a group of Hispanic protesters -- had incited “hate and racism.”

Blanco shared audio on Twitter of what appeared to phone call from a Rinaldi supporter.

In the audio, a male caller says "I stand with Matt Rinaldi" before going on to make racist comments towards “illegal alien[s]” in the state.

Blanco accused Rinaldi of making “hateful and disparaging comments” towards Hispanics and immigrants during a conversation on Monday about protests over Senate Bill 4, a controversial legislation that, among other things, bans sanctuary cities.

Video of the protests and the subsequent scuffle between state lawmakers surfaced on social media later on Monday. The footage showed the legislators screaming and shoving each other. Texas House Democrats later accused Rinaldi of making violent threats towards them.

Texas Rep. Philip Cortez recalled the incident in a press conference after the scuffle.

“We were just on the floor talking about the SB4 protests, and Matt Rinaldi came up to us and made it a point to say, ‘I called (ICE) on all of them,’ ” Cortez said. “And this is completely unacceptable. We will not be intimidated. We will not be disrespected.”

However, ICE told ABC News that the agency is not aware of receiving a call and referred media to Rinaldi for more information on the call.

"ICE is not aware of receiving any calls related to this matter since media first reported it on May 29," said an ICE spokesperson in a statement.

Protests -- which fall under "sensitive location" -- are also generally off limits to ICE agents.

Another House Democrat accused Rinaldi of threatening a fellow lawmaker.

“There was a threat made from Representative Rinaldi to put a bullet in one of my colleagues’ heads,” state Rep. Justin Rodriguez said during the news conference. “That kind of threatening language, he needs to be called out and held accountable for.”

Rinaldi later released a statement, where he acknowledged the fight and said he was the one who was threatened.

Rinaldi said a representative "threatened my life on the House floor after I called ICE on several illegal immigrants who held signs in the gallery and said ‘I am illegal and here to stay.’”

Rinaldi went on to allege that another Democrat Representative had “physically assaulted" him, while "other Democrats were held back by colleagues.” He said he is currently under the protection of the Department of Public Safety as a result of the incident.

Geneva Sands contributed to this story.

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