Ciavola did not return a call seeking comment but addressed Garcia's letter with his own letter to the Rebel Yell.
"I resent the implication that CSUN is somehow racist because an individual allegedly made an offensive comment that was transmitted via gossip. This edition of CSUN is one of the most diverse in history, and I am proud of the work we've done this year for all students," Ciavola wrote. "The truth is that Jose Garcia doesn't like people with whom he disagrees politically, and he is willing to do anything to destroy them in order to regain his seat in the CSUN Senate."
Garcia said two separate sitting senators informed him of Stephens' comments and that he verified it with a third senator to whom he reached out. He plans to file a complaint.
Stephens, who said the U.S. immigration system is in need of reform but was not sure what that reform should be, said she was a Republican Party member who leans Libertarian, and perhaps her constitutionalist background spurred her to act while others in student government were reluctant to do so.
Garcia said that despite the controversy and how the issue has played out on the front page of the student newspaper, his concerns were more focused on the culture at UNLV rather than on himself or Stephens. Garcia and other students say they know of other undocumented student who served in student government, but Garcia was open about his status on campus and in campaign materials.
"There have been undocumented students in prominent CSUN positions before," Garcia said. "A lot of undocumented students don't want to speak up. This is not about me. It's about the anti-immigrant environment in Nevada and in the Southwest in general."
Stephens said her only mention of deportation to the other senators was out of concern for Garcia if he were elected and she felt the need to file an election complaint that would further expose him. Garcia, whose father is now in proceedings to establish a legal residency status and whose three younger sisters all are U.S. citizens, said any mention of deportation indicated Stephens' lack of sensitivity to the issue.
"Honestly, I don't think she understands what being undocumented entails and what it really means when someone talks about deportation," Garcia said. "Growing up, I thought a lot of these positions were a generational thing, but to see them here at UNLV makes you realize you see it with all ages. My father was deported when I was 16, and that was extremely difficult. I had to be the man of the family. Deportation means separating families. There are emotional scars triggered when someone mentions deportation."
Gil Revolorio, one of the senators who communicated Stephens' statements to Garcia, said he understood Stephens' position.
"Rachel brought up her concerns, which were based on facts and the rules we have to follow, and I 100 percent agreed with her," Revolorio said.
He added that he did not think Stephens' comments were based on an ethnic or racial bias.
"I'm Hispanic," Revolorio said. "I don't think (Stephens) is racist at all. I don't think racism is an issue. I'm Hispanic and we are buddies. If she were racist against Hispanics, she would not talk to me. Rachel is 100 percent constitutionalist, and I think that's where this is coming from."
Revolorio said he went to Garcia to talk about Stephens' concerns, and perhaps if everyone involved had communicated with each other instead of through the Rebel Yell's letters page, some animosity and misunderstanding could have been avoided.
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