BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Newly-elected Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia, the council's first Afro-Latina member and an immigrant, received a threatening voicemail last week calling her a "bigot," "fascist," and "leech."
"Your mother was a criminal too for coming over here illegally," the caller said of Mejia's mother, who was at one point undocumented. "How much more do you want to leech off of us, the taxpayers?"
It's a message Mejia said was "all to familiar" to her and others in the immigrant community.
"You should be put in handcuffs and deported," he continues. "You commie. You don't like it here, go back to where you came from."
Mejia told WBZ NewsRadio's Nichole Davis her team didn't want her to hear it at first.
"They wanted just for me to know that it happened," she said. "They didn't think it would be a good idea for me to listen to it, that it would be too upsetting."
But she listened to it Tuesday morning after waiting through the long weekend, and said she was shocked at what she heard.
"I was really taken aback to hear the amount of hate spewing out of this gentleman's mouth, and was really disheartened. To know that sentiment of someone who believes that I am a criminal and that I should go back to my country, even though I am a naturalized U.S. citizen, was really sad—but it really made me think about, if this is the type of treatment that I'm receiving as an elected official, I can only imagine what people who are undocumented or are immigrants coming into this country feel when they are treated in that fashion."
So, Councilor Mejia decided to make the message public.
She posted the above video, which sets the hateful message to photos and video of her, her family, and other immigrants, to YouTube on Wednesday night.
"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," Mejia said in a tweet.
At points in the video, Mejia cuts in to correct the caller, who says she's not a "true American."
"Many, many, many eons ago, I actually became a naturalized citizen, and I was naturalized right across the hall in Faneuil Hall," she says in the video, pointing to the historical landmark through a window in City Hall. "Guess what? We're American too, and we're not going anywhere."
Mejia said calls like happen "all the time" from what she understands, especially for figures working on policy that deals with immigration.
"Apparently, City Councilor Josh Zakim had also received some threats after he had introduced the Trust Act, and then there have been other times, things that deal with immigration, where there's been some of these incidents that have occurred," she said.
As her first action on the City Council, Mejia introduced an order calling for various city departments to examine civil rights in the creation of sanctuary safe spaces. She believes that played a role in the call.
"The first time that I go out and public and speak about something that is deeply near and dear to me, there was an adverse reaction to it," she said. "I think that people have a misconception of harboring what they call illegal residents, and I'm really about the undocumented ... I think the way the president has set the tone in this country, there's just a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment here."
She said Boston Police are monitoring the situation.
"I think that in terms of my safety, I was personally a little bit concerned, because our home addresses are public information," she said. "I was a little bit concerned, I thought about my daughter, I thought about my mom."
The same individual called other city councilors to complain about Mejia, and she said another person called to inquire whether or not Mejia had "the proper documentation to work."
Fellow City Councilor Liz Breadon, herself an immigrant from Northern Ireland, responded with a message of support for Mejia.
"As an immigrant, naturalized citizen & resident of Boston. I stand in solidarity with my sister in service @juliaforboston," she wrote in a tweet.
Mejia said she didn't expect the public would react this way to her term as councilor.
"I think that we're now at a time in the city where people are embracing diversity and understanding the importance of having everyone involved in the conversation, and I also think that there's an appetite, or at least a desire, to bring people together across our differences, which is one of the reasons why I ran city-wide," she said.
Others responded to the video on social media, expressing their shock and supporting Mejia's message of inclusion.
Mejia said that, as someone who grew up in the city experiencing life as an immigrant, she feels a responsibility to bring people from the city's different neighborhoods together.
"Now is our time to really look at what we are going to do, all of us, to move together," she said. "I know that sounds 'Kumbaya,' but I really do believe in the power of humanity, which is why I responded the way that I did in regards to the video. I'm not here to call people out—I'm really looking for opportunities to invite them into the conversation, because I believe that's how we're going to move forward."
WBZ NewsRadio's Nichole Davis (@NicholeDWBZ) reports