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Latino Daily News

Wednesday February 16, 2011

Kansas Rep. Connie O’Brien Asked to Apologize For “Olive Complextion” Comment

Kansas Rep. Connie O’Brien Asked to Apologize For “Olive Complextion” Comment

Photo: Kansas Rep. Connie O'Brien

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Democrats are asking Rep. Connie O’Brien to apologize for comments she made at a hearing where she mentioned seeing an “olive complexion” girl who “we could tell” was not in the country legally.

During a Monday hearing to repeal legislation granting in-state tuition to children of undocumented immigrants, O’Brien told the story of a girl she saw while enrolling her son into a Kansas community college last year.

She stated that a female student was in line to pick up her scholarship money, but was having trouble getting it because she had no state I.D. or driver’s license to give the clerk.

“We could tell by looking at her that she was not originally from this country,” said O’Brien. When asked by a fellow lawmaker how she “could tell,” O’Brien stated, “Well she wasn’t black, she wasn’t Asian, and she had the olive complexion.” Adding, “It struck me that she didn’t have a driver’s license (and) she’s driving on our streets. That’s illegal.”

Now, the Kansas Democratic Party is asking O’Brien to apologize, stating, “Close-minded thoughts like this should be far from the minds of lawmakers as they consider legislation that will affect our entire state.”

O’Brien pointed out that her son-in-law is from Afghanistan, and that the girl had a similar skin-tone. She says that Democrats have mischaracterized her comments, and added that, she’s even been told she’s “got olive complexion.”

Monday, O’Brien said she was unsure if she would apologize, saying she needed “time to think.”

However, Wednesday she “apologized” saying, ““After contemplating the statements I made in the Federal and State Affairs Committee meeting, I understand how they could have been misconstrued. I misspoke and apologize to those I offended. I have learned from this situation and will be more careful with my choice of words in the future.”

Yet, O’Brien stood by her analysis of the girl she saw at the college, and added, “The student in question did not have a driver’s license, government identification or any other form of documentation. From the situation, it was clear that the student was not a United States citizen. However, I should have been more precise in stating why it was clear that she was not a legal citizen.”

What was interestingly pointed out to the Kansas representative, was the fact that if the student had been in the country illegally, she would not have been allowed the financial aid or scholarships she was supposedly in line for, as undocumented immigrants, though currently allowed in-state tuition, are not eligible for any federal or state assistance.