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ICYMI: Two Months After Attack on Latinos in El Paso, Story Highlights How the City Has Been Ground Zero for Anti-Immigrant Policies

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Almost two months after the horrific attack in El Paso that targeted Latinos and immigrants, a story published in the Nation shows how El Pasoans continue living in fear and uncertainty. The piece, written by Ariana Sawyer and Edith Tapia, outlines the terror felt immediately after the mass shooting that took 22 lives and injured many more, but also the fear created by years of immigration policies that left many victims’ families scared of trying to find their loved ones. 

El Paso has become ground zero for President Trump and his administration’s anti-immigrant policies, including family separation and the Migrant Protection Protocol, which has sent thousands of migrants back to Ciudad Juarez, vulnerable to kidnapping and extortion. But El Paso’s history as a testing ground for increased enforcement long predates President Trump and is only being exacerbated today.  

Below is an excerpt from the piece by Edith Tapia and Ariana Sawyer in the Nation. Find the story in its entirety here:

…Many reports about the attack depicted El Paso as a diverse and loving community terrorized in a sudden, unprecedented way. And indeed, the city’s binational identity is evident from the street art to the billion-dollar trade industry with Mexico. And family ties across the border are commonplace—many of those killed in the shooting had family members in both the United States and Mexico.

But the terror wrought by the Walmart shooter landed on a community where many people already feel targeted by abusive immigration policies, both recent and longstanding. Approximately 83 percent of El Paso–area residents are Latinxs, more than 26 percent of residents are foreign-born, and local immigrant advocates estimate that 60,000 El Paso County residents are undocumented.

On September 6, members of Congress held a field hearing in El Paso on border oversight and the “relationship between anti-immigrant rhetoric and domestic terrorism,” where all six of those who testified addressed abuses against border residents by immigration authorities and the fear those abuses have invoked.

El Paso County attorney Jo Anne Bernal testified that after news spread that immigration authorities entered the El Paso County Courthouse, arresting and detaining her client, an undocumented victim of domestic violence, other undocumented victims of domestic violence immediately began canceling their protective-order hearings, expressing fears that if they stepped into the courthouse, the same could happen to them.

…Local attorneys have started a project here to identify noncitizen victims of the Walmart massacre and their family members and to help them apply for a special visa protecting crime victims and facilitating cooperation with law enforcement. But the lawyers tell us they face a major hurdle: Many will likely fear the visa application is just another trick to deport them.

It will take more than a repudiation of racism and white nationalism for El Paso to heal. A deep reform of Border Patrol procedures is crucial.

As Congress enters appropriations season, members should work to create a humane and rights-respecting border regime by passing funding bills that require mandatory oversight, increased transparency, and effective accountability systems within the Department of Homeland Security and its component agencies. And Congress should not allocate additional money to immigration enforcement without reforms to stop ongoing abuses that dehumanize Latinxs and other minorities or people of color no matter which side of the border they are from.