Tuesday, Aug. 3, marks the two-year anniversary of the El Paso shooting that ultimately took the lives of 23 people and injured dozens more, including a 2-month-old baby. Both of the baby’s parents were killed while protecting his life. The mass shooting at the El Paso Walmart was the deadliest attack against U.S. Latinos in modern American history.
But a top immigrant rights advocacy group says that “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.” That includes Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who is doubling down on anti-immigrant attacks in order to survive a primary challenge.
“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,” America’s Voice campaigns manager Mario Carrillo said. “Today, Gov. Abbott seems intent on following Trump’s lead.” Namely, that includes his despicable executive order continuing the “immigrants bring disease” trope—and a despicable executive order that’s now being challenged by Attorney General Merrick Garland in court.
It’s bad enough that Abbott is using immigrants and their families as props in his political race. He’s also “putting Latinos and immigrants in the crosshairs,” Carrillo said. “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.” Abbott’s “message is not subtle,” Carrillo continued. “Brown-skinned people are a threat.”
Abbott was saying that before this primary, and even before El Paso. Recall that just one day prior to the El Paso attack, a fundraising letter sent out in Abbott’s name proclaimed that "if we're going to defend Texas, we'll need to take matters into our own hands." It further complained that in “just three weeks in June, 45,000 illegal immigrants were apprehended crossing the Mexican border into Texas! That amounts to the entire population of Galveston—every three weeks. In just six months, we’d add the population of Arlington!”
Abbott at first refused to publicly comment on the letter, but eventually issued a non-apology claiming that “mistakes were made.” By whom? Who can say! The letter offered few details, only listing “Governor Greg Abbott” in the letterhead, listing his website at the bottom of the page, stating “political ad paid for by Texans for Greg Abbott,” and a “Sincerely, Greg Abbott” signature.
Abbott also figuratively hid behind his spouse in making the non-apology, stating that "my wife is the first Hispanic First Lady of Texas. Her family came from Mexico. We need to address this attack on who we are as Texans,” the Dallas Morning News reported at the time. But what has Abbott done instead as the second anniversary of this white domestic terror attack is now here in front of us?
“Abbott needs to remember that incendiary words too often come with a body count,” Carrillo continued. “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.”
There are several other guilty parties here assisting the governor in his racist attacks. When Abbott prematurely lifted pandemic restrictions earlier this year, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick similarly pointed his finger at asylum-seeking families. Patrick is no stranger to this either, with his own history of racist bullcrap that goes back years. Sen. Ted Cruz has also made that accusation more recently, falsely claiming that cases in south Texas are on the rise as “a direct result” of migrants “being released into communities.”
Carrillo hasn’t been alone in his outrage. “2 years after Walmart mass shooting, El Paso leaders see inaction and betrayal by Texas officials,” El Paso Matters reports, namely the fact that “rhetoric describing migrants as criminals and invaders is now espoused by Texas’ Republican leadership, including Abbott.”
“They know full well that their xenophobic racist rhetoric feeds hatred, and they know full well that that hatred fuels violence,” U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar told El Paso Matters. She assumed a vital role in El Paso’s healing. “And who are the victims of the violence? It is, we have seen in Texas, vulnerable communities like ours,” she continued. So what does Abbott have to say for himself now? El Paso Matters said that “[t]he governor’s office declined an interview, citing his busy schedule.”