A recent arrest by federal law enforcement officials highlights the continued danger around the mainstreaming of white supremacist ideology, particularly in the state of Texas, which was already the site of a hate-related terror attack in 2019 and what appears to be a mass murder steeped in white supremacist ideology at a mall earlier this month.
The Justice Department announced last week that a Burleson man was arrested and indicted on one count of possessing a destructive device. Officials said that Noah Robert Calderon, 22, had been obsessed with mass shooters, exhibited “hatred towards a protected class,” and reportedly “embraced” white supremacist ideology on his social media accounts. The suspect had “allegedly progressed from ideation to planning and preparation,” U.S. Attorney Leigha Simonton said.
We do not yet know the exact details of his beliefs and social media content, but the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that “[a] handwritten document labeled ‘Manifesto’ found in Calderon’s room ‘glorified the Columbine shooters and espoused white supremacy,’’ federal authorities said.” We know white supremacist ideology has already had deadly consequences in the state, when a mass shooter who spewed “invasion” rhetoric targeted an El Paso Walmart in 2019. The shooter pleaded guilty to federal hate crime and weapons charges earlier this year. Earlier this month in Allen, another shooter “who killed eight people at a Dallas-area mall wore extremist insignia, posted racist and misogynistic screeds and praised Nazis online.”
But despite the horror of these hate-induced mass casualty events, “‘[i]nvasion’ language continues,” the Associated Press reported in February. In fact, Republicans used their new House majority to mainstream “white nationalist conspiracy talking points as part of their relentless political attacks on the border and immigration,” we noted at the time.
Texas officials like Gov. Greg Abbott Sen. Ted Cruz in particular should know better, especially after El Paso. But Abbott has continued to echo “invasion” rhetoric, including in his official policies. Cruz, meanwhile, was at the southern border echoing that rhetoric just this month. Cruz claimed we were witnessing “nothing more than an invasion” as we were also going into the one-year anniversary of the Buffalo mass shooting, another hate-fueled attack that took the lives of ten Black Americans and whose racist screed peddled the “invasion” line. White supremacist conspiracy theory was also espoused by Rep. Elise Stefanik, a lawmaker from the state and a member of House Republican leadership.
Cruz, by the way, made his claim in response to the expiration of the anti-asylum Title 42 policy. While Cruz was likely hoping for chaos in order to boost his anti-immigrant agenda, a relatively calm and orderly process has been on display since May 11.
The Dallas Morning News last week also offered a somber update on the shooting of a group of migrants by two brothers in Sierra Blanca last year. The Texas Tribune had already reported details making clear that twin brothers Michael and Mark Sheppard had carried out a targeted hate crime. While the brothers would later claim they had been hunting for small animals, migrants who had been hiding from the armed brothers said that one of them threatened them in Spanish. “Come out you sons of bitches, little asses,” one of the brothers said.
One of the brothers, Michael Sheppard, had been a warden at an immigration detention facility that’s faced accusations of anti-immigrant abuse in the past. Alejandra Luna, a server in Sierra Blanca, told The Dallas Morning News that she often served Mark Sheppard and that he would make racist remarks to her. “He was like, ‘You people,’ meaning I guess Mexican people, ‘That y’all come over here and want everything free. Well, first I was, like, I wasn’t born in Mexico. I’m a U.S. citizen. Secondly, I have always worked. That comment is out of place.’” Sara Villatoro, a recent transplant to Sierra Blanca, told The Dallas Morning News that she thought she was moving to a “tranquil” community. But now she’s afraid of going outside the town.
“We no longer go out there on our own,” she said in the report. “Because of our skin color, they might say we just crossed the border.” In Brownsville just this month, eight migrants were killed “after being hit by a car driven by someone who allegedly spouted anti-immigrant language,” our own Mario Carrillo wrote at El Paso Matters.
“Residents like Luna call on politicians to be careful with their rhetoric,” The Dallas Morning News continued. “Some Republican leaders including Abbott refer to the growing number of migrants as an ‘invasion.’” Bill Addington, another resident, said the town doesn’t “want to be defined” by the shooting, “but this really happened. We have to face the facts, because there will be more shootings.”
But these are facts that those in power and have the most influence intentionally ignore out of a misguided cynical and despicable politics, leaving their constituents too afraid to even enjoy their own community’s backyard for fear they could be hate’s next victim.