The white supremacist terrorist who shot and killed 22 people and injured dozens of others in El Paso, Texas, last August has been indicted on federal hate crimes and firearm charges, the Justice Department has announced. “People in our nation have the right to go to a store on a Saturday morning without fear that they will be shot and killed because of who they are or where they are from,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said on Thursday. As the grand jury alleges, the defendant tried to terrorize an entire community. This kind of terror will not stand.”
This white supremacist terrorism was without a doubt an attack on the Latino community because the white supremacist terrorist said so in his own words. “This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” he scrawled in his writings before driving nine hours to target the peaceful border community. “They are the instigators, not me. I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.”
A USA Today analysis conducted after the shooting found that impeached president Donald Trump spewed that same “invasion” rhetoric during rallies at least 19 times since 2017, and thousands more times in Facebook advertising. Yet his unapologetic campaign not only refused to stop using that wording, it doubled down: immigrant rights advocacy group America’s Voice noted that the campaign was back to running new Facebook ads attacking immigrants just hours after the shooting.
When Trump was eventually forced to visit the city, leaders there weren’t fooled. “Words have consequences, and the president has made my community and my people the enemy. He has told the country that we are people to be feared, people to be hated,” Rep. Veronica Escobar of El Paso said.
“The attack two days ago was an attack of a Latino community, it was an attack on immigrants, it was an attack on Mexicans, and Mexican-Americans. And that was not an accident,” said former San Antonio mayor and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. “That is in part due to the climate this president has set.”
The fear has been felt. In Florida, 73-year-old Bertha Rodriguez “had a hard time talking about the El Paso shooting without breaking into tears,”The New York Times reported. “I live in this terror for my grandkids,” she said.
Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, a 30-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient, said “It’s really hard to be alive as an immigrant right now and to not be sick and exhausted. It feels like being hunted.” While she’s on her way to a green card through her marriage, she fears for her parents, who are undocumented.
This terrorism should be a national security concern, yet not one single Republican showed up to a House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship hearing on anti-immigrant rhetoric and domestic terrorism the month following the shooting. “Anti-immigrant rhetoric is on the rise today and is inflamed by President Trump,” Escobar said in chairing the hearing. “Criminals, rapists, drug dealers. That’s how then-candidate Trump described Mexicans when he launched his campaign.” That rhetoric, she said, “has only escalated over time,” and has included laughing at a supporter’s suggestion to shoot families at the border.
Advocacy group League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, said in a statement received by Daily Kos that the grand jury’s indictment “represents a somber moment in the Latino community here in Texas. The lives that were lost in El Paso will never be forgotten. We want and demand justice for the families of the deceased and hurt, for the El Paso community, and for Latinos everywhere who now live in fear of their lives. While we mourn we are still strong. We will not be victims, we will not be silent, we will be strong. El Paso strong and Texas strong!”
The El Paso shooter already faces charges at the state level; The New York Times reported “The DOJ will prosecute on a parallel track with state officials.” The 90-count indictment at the federal level charges the shooter “with 22 counts of hate crimes resulting in death, 23 hate crimes involving an attempt to kill, and 45 counts of discharging a firearm in relation to the hate crimes,” the Justice Department said.