The extreme views of Juan Ciscomani: The Arizona congressman who represents the most conservative Latino voice

The charismatic Mexican-American is hoping to be re-elected, but Democrats have denounced his links to the Patriot Academy, a far-right group that wants to rewrite the Constitution to turn the U.S. into a ‘Christian nation’

Juan Ciscomani en el Capitolio, en Washington, en enero de 2023.
Juan Ciscomani on Capitol Hill, in Washington, in January 2023.Carolyn Kaster (AP)
José Luis Ávila

“I grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where my dad worked as a city bus driver to give my sisters and me a chance at the American Dream,” said Juan Ciscomani, the first Mexican immigrant elected to the House of Representatives for Arizona’s sixth district, during the Republican response to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech at the beginning of 2023.

“He showed his children the value of hard work and taught us to love our country,” continued Ciscomani, in reference to his father. “He also taught us that with determination and hard work, there are no limits in this great nation.”

It was a crowning moment for Ciscomani, who was born in Hermosillo, Mexico. It put the newcomer to Washington on the national stage, and was also an open declaration of intent. The politician began his speech in Spanish and took a stand against the Biden administration, sending a clear message to the Latino voters who, like him, disagrees with the Democrat.

In the seven minutes and forty-six seconds that his speech lasted, Ciscomani took the opportunity to unleash a tirade against the Democratic Party. “President Biden wants to tell you that everything is great, but why aren’t people feeling great? The American dream feels more unattainable, and sadly, President Biden fails to show leadership and present any viable solution,” he said, referring to the management of the economy and the performance of the White House in controlling the southern border.

Since his arrival at the Capitol in 2022, Ciscomani has become the representative of the most conservative Latino voice in the United States. On the issue of immigration — one of the key concerns for the Latino community — the Mexican-American has positioned himself firmly against irregular arrivals. In fact, he has previously advocated for the National Guard to be deployed in Arizona to stop the flow of migrants from Mexico and called for work on the wall on the southern border — which began during Donald Trump’s presidency — to be finished.

The congressman has strongly supported Trump ahead of the presidential elections in November. “The president is going to come in with a different energy than the first time. He knows what he’s getting into, he knows the systems, he knows the attacks he will face [...] All kinds of attacks are coming, but he will be prepared and will act immediately,” he said about the former president in an interview with Telemundo.

It’s therefore perhaps no surprise that Ciscomani has been accused of associating with a far-right group. The revelation came ahead of the Arizona Republican primaries that will take place in July, in which Ciscomani is seeking re-election. All signs indicate that he will win the primary and likely compete against Democrat Kirsten Engel in the November 5 vote.

It was the Engel campaign that revealed in a video that Ciscomani has links to the Patriot Academy, a far-right group also known as The Torch of Freedom, which opposes the separation of church and state, seeks to rewrite the Constitution to turn the U.S. into a “Christian nation” and denies climate change. “I can wholeheartedly say that nothing in my life has given me a clearer direction for my life than Patriot Academy,” the congressman wrote in an article on the Patriot Academy’s website.

Engel’s campaign argues that not only did Ciscomani serve on the Patriot Academy board of directors from 2007 to January 2021, but that he also brought the group to Arizona and supported teaching young students that the United States is on the brink of “Godless communism.” The organization provides political training classes on “the biblical values of the Constitution,” offers mock legislative sessions and “constitutional defense” courses, and trains adults and children in the use of firearms for the defense of Christian nationalism. These include firearms tactics classes, rifle and shotgun courses and, in some cases, bow and arrow courses.

Ciscomani has not yet responded to Engel’s allegations or the evidence that links him to the organization, but he has previously spoken at length about how his religious beliefs affect his opinions on issues such as abortion or same-sex marriage. “My mom has been the pillar of faith in our family. Always praying and reminding us that with faith, anything is possible,” he said during the Republican response to the State of the Union address.

According to his re-election website, the congressman “is pro-life with exceptions for rape, incest, and protecting the life of the mother.” His state, Arizona, has one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the United States. This regulation prohibits abortion even in cases of rape or incest, does not take into account pregnancy complications, and only makes exceptions for when the mother’s life is in danger or at risk of significant harm.

A meteoric rise to Washington

Ciscomani — who is married, with six children and has a degree from the University of Arizona — is a politician who is seen wearing suits with sneakers on social media, as part of an effort to distance himself from the old-fashioned image of Washington politicians. His beginnings as a public servant date back to 2015, when on the orders of former Arizona governor Doug Ducey, he was appointed director of the southern office of the state, with seven counties under his charge. Subsequently, he was a senior advisor in Ducey’s office and headed the Arizona-Sonora Commission, which promotes trade between Mexico and the United States.

In 2022, at 41 years old, he won the Republican nomination in the primaries to compete for the seat in Arizona’s sixth congressional district. He won the position in parliament in the November 8 elections by a difference of just over 5,000 votes. Kirsten Engel, his rival then and probably again this year, won 171,969 votes (49.2%), while he secured 177,201 (50.7%).

During his first 100 days in office, Ciscomani participated in 59 approved bills, sent another five to the White House, of which three became law, according to the Univision network. He was also the first newcomer to be appointed to the House Committee on Appropriations, and to be a member of the bipartisan Citizens Advisory Council, made up of a Republican, a Democrat and an independent. “No side is going to get everything it wants [...] Within the Republican Party itself, there are different opinions on how to reach certain points,” he said during an interview with the conservative media Americano Media.

Regarding key issues for the Latino community such as the economy and immigration, he is in favor of social security and Medicare coverage, but is very critical of the Biden administration’s decision to end Title 42, calling it a “terrible” move. He also loudly opposed statements made by Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS), Cuban-American Alejandro Mayorkas, who said that the United States has between 10 and 11 million job vacancies for people fleeing poverty.

“They send this type of message, saying come and do it in a dangerous and illegal way. That’s the problem [...] Are there vacancies? Of course there are. Our migrant community are very good workers at any level, from engineers to service employees. Of course there is a formula there, but there is a process to do that,” he told Univision.

Ciscomani also spoke to the media about the need to invest in infrastructure and technology to prevent drug trafficking and human trafficking at the border. He said that fentanyl overdose was the leading cause of death of young people in the sixth district of Arizona, surpassing car accidents. The Republican Party, however, opposed not once, but twice, the bipartisan border agreement in Congress that sought to reform U.S. immigration laws in the country and would have provided $20 billion in funding for border control. The party instead heeded Trump’s calls to block the initiative.

This discourse, centered on an anti-migrant, anti-abortion and anti-LGBT+ rights message, has been gaining strength among Latino voters. “Our community is conservative, with family and work values,” Ciscomani told the media. A new survey by CBS News and YouGov found that 53% of Latinos surveyed are in favor of a mass deportation of undocumented migrants. Ciscomani is just one among millions.

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