Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a widely slammed executive order last week purporting to give state law enforcement the power to detain and return recently crossed migrants to the border. This “vicious and unlawful” order is also signaling to white supremacists by using the same “invasion” rhetoric used by racist mass murderers over and over again, including in Texas.
While some sheriffs in the state have eagerly embraced Abbott’s racist antics, at least one is publicly rebuking his rhetoric. Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar called the right-wing governor’s words “political rhetoric,” and “dead wrong,” San Antonio Express-News reported. “Characterizing it as an enemy invasion is fearmongering.”
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Salazar commented in the report that anti-immigrant policies are instead “creating a monetary incentive for smugglers as undocumented immigrants pay thousands of dollars to be brought into the U.S. in dangerous conditions.” Salazar said they “feel more comfortable handing $10,000 to a cartel member and maybe making it to their destination in one piece.”
Yolanda Olivares Ruiz sold her home to raise that amount to pay smugglers to transport two sons from Mexico. Both died in the recent smuggling tragedy in San Antonio. The youngest of the two, Yovani Valencia Olivares, was just 16.
Salazar has criticized Texas’ political stunts in letters to the Biden administration, writing that he has “watched as Governor Greg Abbott has painted this humanitarian crisis as some sort of enemy invasion,” “wasted excessive assets and personnel on an ineffective farce of an effort,” and “has jailed countless immigrants on worthless charges that have only served to clog an already over-taxed state prison system, which has had a trickle down effect on overcrowded local jails.” While the Justice Department is now reportedly investigating Operation Lone Star, that probe didn’t come until more than a year after the racist program’s implementation.
”I’m asking for you to meet with myself and other Urban County Texas Sheriffs so that together we can address these issues at hand,” Salazar continued in the letter. “Not as the enemy invasion it has been portrayed as, but as the humanitarian crisis it truly is.”
“Salazar said the policy of building a wall and keeping immigrants out is not working,” San Antonio Express-News continued. “We’re failing miserably in that endeavor, and we’re going to see more of [the smuggling tragedy],” he said in the report.
Abbott knows exactly what he’s doing in issuing this order, because immigration enforcement is strictly the job of the federal government. “It’s driven by cynical political motives,” said immigrant rights advocacy group America’s Voice. “And it’s a chilling development for every family in Texas, be they immigrant, mixed status, Black, Latino, Asian or anyone else law enforcement or individuals might target because of the color of their skin or the accent they speak with.”
Abbott also knows exactly what this rhetoric can lead to. Over 100 GOP ads tracked by America’s Voice “mentioned the racist Great Replacement Theory and ‘invasion’ language, accusing Democrats of deliberately encouraging migrants to cross the southern border illegally to replace white voters,” USA Today recently reported. Number three House Republican Elise Stefanik promoted this racist theory last year. Then in May, a racist went to her state and used that racist theory to justify targeting Black people for murder.
“It’s up to the rest of us, whether directly threatened by the ugliness of Gov. Abbott and his allies or not, to speak out and push back against this dangerous rhetoric,” said America’s Voice Deputy Director Vanessa Cárdenas. “The stakes are too high and the dangers too great to remain silent as Republicans fan the flames of anti-democratic racist violence.”
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