Washington, DC – Next Tuesday is the two year anniversary of the El Paso massacre. A white supremacist who claimed he was combatting an “invasion” of “Mexicans,” drove across Texas to kill 23 innocent people at a Walmart.
Today, when Texas politicians should avoid dehumanizing immigrants and stoking anti-immigrant fear to prevent a recurrence of such unspeakable violence, Republicans are doing the opposite. In particular, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton are being reckless and dangerous. They are doubling down on the kind of xenophobic rhetoric that led to the El Paso massacre.
The following is a reflection from Mario Carrillo, El Paso native and Campaigns Manager for America’s Voice:
Two years ago, my hometown of El Paso was attacked by a domestic terrorist. He drove more than 600 miles to, in his mind, stand up to an “invasion” of Latino immigrants. That is what he wrote in his manifesto, using language drawn directly from the mouth of then-President Trump.
The gunman attacked El Paso because the city is predominantly Latino and is made up of many immigrant families. He targeted and attacked families like mine. He picked a store my parents have shopped in many times. He killed 23 people who he believed were not American, didn’t belong and constituted a threat. Simply for being Brown.
Today, Gov. Abbott seems intent on following Trump’s lead. He is putting Latinos and immigrants in the crosshairs. He is threatening children who have come to America in search of safety and freedom. He is blaming newly-arrived asylum-seekers, most of whom have been vaccinated, for spreading COVID. Yesterday, he issued an executive order directing Department of Public Safety officials to pull over anyone suspected of transporting migrants in Texas. His message is not subtle: Brown-skinned people are a threat.
Following the attack in El Paso, Abbott and other elected officials conceded that language matters and they should be more mindful of the phrases and terms they use. But his actions these days suggest he wasn’t sincere and no longer cares. With an election coming up, Abbott is peddling fear, nativism and xenophobia in order to mobilize angry white voters and to distract from his own failures at keeping Texans safe.
Abbott needs to remember that incendiary words too often come with a body count. Instead of targeting Latinos and immigrants, Abbott should focus on the health and safety of all Texans. He should fix the state’s power grid after outages cost hundreds of lives. He should focus on stopping the spread of COVID-19, a disease that has cost more than 50,000 lives. Instead, he is blaming Latinos and immigrants.
Gov. Abbott, please look back on the anniversary of this horrid attack and see it as I do: as a stain on our state and a deep wound to our country’s moral conscience. Stop using language and stoking fear that could lead to more violence. Enact policies that help all of us. I’m not holding out much hope for you, but I hope others will join in and call for a Texas that sees all of its residents – Brown and Black, White and Asian, native-born and foreign-born – as worthy of safety, survival and dignity.