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Rep. Joaquin Castro Invites Widow of Anti-Latino Hate Crime Victim To State of the Union Address, Says White Nationalist Conspiracy Theories Put ‘Targets On The Backs Of Latinos’

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Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro’s guest to President Biden’s State of the Union address this week will be Priscilla Martinez, the widow of a North Texas rancher who was shot and killed by a neighbor last year. Despite the aggressor having previously expressed anti-Latino animus, local authorities have filed no hate crime charges to date, Capitol.press reported

In a statement, Rep. Castro said that he hopes the Martinez family’s story spotlights not only this ongoing injustice but also the continued dangers of mainstreaming nativist rhetoric and deadly conspiracy theories that put a direct target on the backs of Latino and immigrant communities in Texas – which already experience the deadliest anti-Latino terror attack in recent memory – and across the nation.

“Last year, Aaron Martinez was murdered in cold blood by a man who was trying to drive Hispanic families out of North Texas,” Rep. Castro said. “Aaron’s death was the result of years of irresponsible rhetoric by Governor Abbott, Donald Trump, and other politicians who have used their elevated platforms to demonize immigrants, push racist conspiracy theories about Latinos, and incite right-wing violence.”

CBS News reported last year how Martinez became an obsession of a racist neighbor soon after moving to the area to open a horse training ranch. “He started to follow us…[saying] ‘We don’t want you Spanish people in the area,'” Martinez’s dad, Salvador, told CBS News. Then the harassment began to escalate. “When we were working on the ranch, he always was driving the truck with a big gun in the window … pointing to us,” he continued.

Martinez was horrifically killed on May 1. His assailant admitted to carrying out the crime. “Never would I have thought that we would be experiencing this,” Martinez’s sister, Elisandra, told CBS News. “In a way, I just didn’t believe there was so much evil. I could not.” 

Rep. Castro pointed to “rising” white nationalist conspiracy theories and rhetoric from elected Republicans and candidates, who have adopted these once-fringe beliefs and made them an integral part of their speeches, advertising, and political campaigns. This trend has only sharply increased. Recent America’s Voice tracking has identified nearly 700 instances of “invasion” and other nativist messaging from elected Republicans from August 2023 to December 2023 alone. 

In 2019, Texas saw the deadliest mass anti-Latino attack in modern U.S. history when a racist gunman obsessed with a so-called “Hispanic invasion” murdered 23 people and injured 22 others. The gunman was sentenced to 90 consecutive life sentences after pleading guilty to 90 federal hate crimes and firearms violations. While Abbott pledged to be more responsible in his rhetoric, this was a lie. He’s instead become one of the leading peddlers of the “invasion” conspiracy, including using it as a bogus legal argument to support his unlawful anti-immigrant actions.

Since El Paso, this xenophobia has continued to result in a body count in the state. In 2022, two brothers hunted down and shot two migrants, killing one. “One of the alleged shooters is reportedly a warden for a privately run immigration detention center,” The Texas Tribune reported. In another terrifying incident the following year, a man who called himself “eyes for America” pointed a gun at migrants who were outside an El Paso church. 

“One migrant told police ‘he was scared for his life as he has seen videos of when people get shot at mass shootings,’” one report said. “Another migrant told investigators he ‘thought it was going to end his life.’” The gunman later admitted to investigators that he was in illegal possession of his firearm. Then, this year, the FBI announced the arrest of a Tennessee man who sought to shoot and maim migrants at the border over a supposed “invasion.” 

“We need to take control,” Priscilla Martinez said during a recent press conference reported by Capitol.press. “Not only with hate crimes but gun control. In the State of Texas people are walking around with open arms [guns] they can carry and that just makes it easier for crimes like this to happen. I fear for my kids.”  

“I feel like we Latinos and Latinas have a target on our back and we need to speak up,” she continued. “I was nervous to do this but at the end of the day, I was like, I have to be the voice. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I have to speak up for the ones that can’t speak anymore. That’s why I agreed to do this. I was nervous because my kids’ faces are out there and my face is out there. But at the end of the day, I have to do what’s right and what’s going to hopefully benefit my kids in the future.”

“The more right-wing lies that are told, the more conspiracy theories that are told to incite fear and resentment among Americans about immigrants – that is going to affect the Latino community,” Rep. Castro said during the press conference. “That puts targets on the backs of Latinos.”