Mario Carrillo: “As an El Paso native, the West Texas shootings hit home for me. As a Texas voter, I want to hear Greg Abbott’s explanation at tonight’s debate – will he own his role and responsibility for fostering a dangerous and dehumanizing climate that has led to violence?
Washington, DC – Throughout the year, America’s Voice has highlighted the details and dangers of Republicans’ growing embrace of dehumanizing lies and nativist conspiracies that lead to deadly violence. Our recent political report on GOP anti-immigrant messaging this cycle identified hundreds of ads and messages that relied on “invasion” and “replacement” themes, even after these conspiracies inspired domestic terrorists to murder dozens of people in cities like El Paso, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh. Despite the El Paso killings, Texas has been an epicenter of the GOP embrace of a dangerous strain of nativism, with Gov. Greg Abbott the prime example of a Republican political candidate relentlessly embracing dehumanizing lies and whipping up fears about immigration.
We bring this up in context of the west Texas shooting of two migrants this week. While details are still emerging, it appears to be a hate crime directly targeting migrants. As the Texas Tribune reports:
“Two men shot two migrants, killing one and injuring another, earlier this week while the two victims stood along a West Texas road getting water, authorities said. One of the alleged shooters is reportedly a warden for a privately run immigration detention center
… The migrants later told federal agents they had heard one of the men shout in Spanish for them to “Come out,” according to the Times’ report. Eventually, the driver revved the truck’s engine, fired a gun, climbed back into the truck and drove away. The men, per the Times, said in interviews with law enforcement that they had been out looking for animals to shoot.”
In 2019, a white supremacist gunman killed 23 people in El Paso. The day before, Gov. Abbott had sent a fundraising letter that stated, “If we’re going to DEFEND Texas, we’ll need to take matters into our own hands.” Following the El Paso killings, Abbott pledged to be more responsible in his rhetoric, noting at the time: “I emphasize the importance of making sure that rhetoric will not be used in any dangerous way.” Yet three years later, Gov. Abbott has ignored his post-El Paso pledge and has been one of the leading peddlers of the “invasion” conspiracy while making fear mongering over migrants and asylum seekers the dominant focus of his re-election campaign. A common thread through his relentless anti-immigrant stunts this year has been the dehumanization of immigrants.
Tonight, Gov. Abbott will face off with Democratic opponent Beto O’Rourke in their lone debate. Given the west Texas shootings, Abbott’s role and embrace of dangerous conspiracies and irresponsible and dehumanizing immigration rhetoric must be a focus. As O’Rourke stated: “This is the predictable result when Abbott describes asylum seekers as an ‘invasion,’ asks Texans to ‘defend’ the state from immigrants by ‘taking matters into our own hands,’ and treats refugees like political props instead of human beings.”
According to Mario Carrillo, Texas-based Campaigns Director for America’s Voice:
My heart goes out to the victims of the shootings in west Texas. While details are still emerging about the shooting and the shooters’ motivations, it appears to be another hate crime directed against immigrants.
While we await more clarity about the killing, we know with certainty that Gov. Greg Abbott is leading the Republican Party in both Texas and across the country in peddling dangerous rhetoric built on falsehoods about immigrants and asylum seekers, and mainstreaming the lie that America is under assault and is being invaded at our southern border.
As we saw after the El Paso mass murder in 2019, Greg Abbott understands the dangers of an unhinged and well-armed individual taking matters into their own hands and acting on their nativist beliefs. As we saw in the years following El Paso, Abbott’s pledge about responsible rhetoric was no match for his political ambitions and desire to shore up his nativist cred with anti-immigrant base voters already whipped into a frenzy on the issue.
As an El Paso native, the west Texas shootings hit close to home for me. As a Texas voter, I want to hear Greg Abbott’s explanation at tonight’s debate – will he own his role and responsibility for fostering a dangerous and dehumanizing climate that has led to violence? Abbott and other GOP peddlers of the dehumanizing ‘invasion’ conspiracy need to give some answers and dial back language that leads to violence.