Metro

City councilor’s angry caller has a change of heart

BOSTON, MA - 01/15/2020 Newly inaugurated Councilor Julia Mejia smiles at the council after delivering her maiden speech in the Iannella Chamber in City Hall. Councilor Mejia is the first foreign-born Afro-Latina immigrant woman to sit on BostonÕs City Council. Erin Clark / Globe Staff
Erin Clark
City Councilor Julia Mejia

This week, Dominican-born Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia flipped the script on an angry caller who left her a hate-filled message about immigrants — by pairing his tirade with inspiring video and an olive branch.

“We’re not calling you out,” she said on the video she posted with his remarks on social media. “We’re inviting you in.”

The caller got the message. On Friday, he apologized to Mejia and her mother, whom he had called a criminal for having lived in the country undocumented for years.

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The man, who lives outside of Boston, told Mejia he was embarrassed that friends recognized his voice from the recording she’d shared on social media and with news outlets. He called her office on Friday and after speaking to an aide, had the heart-to-heart with Mejia that she had invited.

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“I am not a hateful person,” he said during their conversation, which she recorded and played for the Globe. His anger, he said, came from accounts of violence caused by undocumented immigrants and his belief in the rule of law.

She asked him to be involved in the debate and to work collaboratively, finding common ground along the way.

“You have made my week,” she told him. “This conversation with you has given me so much hope.”

The caller did not respond to the Globe’s request for comment.

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The man had blasted Mejia, an at-large city councilor inaugurated earlier this month, for her first city order to create sanctuary safe spaces in Boston to protect students from fear of being deported. Her order followed revelations that the Boston Public Schools made reports available to ICE, showing closer coordination than previously known. In his initial call, the man had called her a fascist, a communist, a criminal, and said she should be arrested and that he was calling the president about her.

“He’d better do something about people like you on Boston City Council,” he said.

He also made ominous references to Americans’ fighting prowess in various wars and said Mejia was “pushing for a fight.”

“You’ll see how we fight and you’ll see how we love because we obey the law. We’re decent people. We pay our taxes and go to work. But all you do is antagonize and provoke,” he said. “You’re a hater. You’re a racist. You’re a bigot.”

In her video, she paired those words with images of white supremacists marching with torches in Charlottesville in 2017. Mejia, a former MTV reporter, ended the video with her office phone number. She was pleased that the caller took her up on it. She was also pleased that one of his first comments was one of acceptance: “You are where you belong, in America.”

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Mejia is now a naturalized citizen as is her mother.

“Apologize to your mother for me, will you, please? Tell her there’s no animosity,” the man told Mejia. “She came here the hard way and she deserves credit and respect, and I have both of those for her — and you.”

And while he wouldn’t commit to actively engaging on the legislation, they agreed to keep talking.

Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Stephanie.Ebbert@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert