The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

August 30, 2012

GOP chiefs berate Snyder County Republicans over "Mexican" comments

By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

ALLENWOOD — By Francis Scarcella

The Daily Item

ORLANDO, Fla. — Snyder County Republican leaders are blasting Mark and Irene Harris, former GOP committee members from Middleburg who took offense to seeing a person of Mexican heritage working at an international pavilion at Epcot that showcases the cuisine and culture of United States.

The Harrises attended this week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, where Mark was a delegate representing the state’s 10th Congressional District. They posted updates during their trip to their Rock Star GOP blog, which included this on Thursday:

“During our time at Epcot we visited the different countries. It was neat seeing each country and the employees were from that individual country. Then we visited America,” where the Harris blog notes the couple discovered a Hispanic person working.

“One would think you would find American employees. We were offended to find a person from Mexico working in America. Mark spoke up and told them he was highly offended after visiting the other countries and seeing employees from that country and then come to America and find a Mexican. He was very civil, but his point was well made.”

When the story hit The Daily Item’s website, several readers, including Snyder County Commissioners Malcolm Derk and Joe Kantz — who is chairman of the Snyder County Republican Committee — were appalled.

“The statements made by Mark and Irene Harris are uninformed and highly offensive,” Derk said. “The Harrises’ comments show their ignorance as they cast judgment on someone they do not know. They do not speak for our county or party.

“We are a nation of immigrants that allows each of us to achieve success through hard work. Americans are people of any race, color or heritage. Cheers to the individual working at Epcot for showing what a true American looks like.”

Added Kantz: “The Republican Party is fortunate to have some great leaders. The American people were exposed to many of them by way of this week’s convention. Gov. Susana Martinez, Gov. Nikki Haley and Mayor Mia Love were shining examples of the diversity within our party. I happen to be part German, part Irish and part Cherokee Indian, but I am American first and foremost.

“What would the Harrises say to someone working at Epcot if they had been a white male who descended from Italy but spoke perfect English? Making assumptions about people by the way they look or the way they talk is irresponsible and has no place in America.”

Shown in a photograph with Irene Harris taken in Florida is U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11, whose crusade against illegal immigrants in his hometown of Hazleton put him in the national spotlight. The caption on the photograph reads: “We are behind you, Lou!”

Barletta said he remembers taking the picture with Irene Harris because he recalls hearing a story about a man with a nametag, but the congressman said he was also speaking with several other people while the photo was taken and just wasn’t 100 percent committed to listening to the Harris story.

“I am in no way affiliated with this,” Barletta said. “I remember hearing something about this but it was something that sounded off to me and I was in the process of speaking with many other people at the time. I am not opposed to anyone that is legal working anywhere in the United States.”

Barletta said he was bewildered when he learned his picture had been linked to the blog.

“I take pictures with many people,” he said. “But I am not associated with any of this. I am against illegals in the country and everyone knows that. I have absolutely no problem with anyone legal working anywhere in this country, including having an individual of Mexican decent working in the America portion of Epcot.”

Mark Harris contacted The Daily Item after hearing Valley residents were offended by the statements.

“This is getting taken out of context,” he said. “What we said is that in Epcot we saw a man that had a name tag that said ’Eddie, from Mexico,’ and we felt that in the America section of the park, there should have been Americans.

“As far as Lou Barletta, he has no part in this and he never made any statements when we spoke.”