SAN ANTONIO — Even before a gunman opened fire on an El Paso Walmart, Latino lawmakers had warned Texas Governor Greg Abbott of his anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Nearly three years after that tragic day that ended the lives of 23 people — and as Buffalo, New York mourns the racially motivated shooting deaths of 10 people — Abbott’s rhetoric and activities during the election year are criticized.
Since the El Paso shooting on Aug. 3, 2019, Abbott has set up his own border patrol force and built his own immigration detention system, he’s been considering declaring the border under ‘invasion’ and he’s called for denial of the border. education and infant formula. to immigrant children, both of whom are required by US law.
“It didn’t take very long for him to be back on the same hate train, the same bandwagon that he is today,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, who represents El Paso at the Congress.
Days before the Buffalo shooting, a gunman walked into a Dallas barber shop and shot and injured three people. Authorities are investigating the hate crime potentially linked to other shootings targeting Asian-run businesses.
The latest violence has renewed criticism from Abbott, who has remained silent. Abbott’s state press office said it had no comment on the Buffalo shooting. He did not respond to supplementary questions.
Domingo García, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said, “Gov. Abbott and right-wing talk show hosts bear the blame for their hateful rhetoric that produces killers.
“They need to mitigate this to stop the racial baiting and scapegoating of others for political points and dividing Americans,” García said.
Few who lived in El Paso have forgotten it, and the similarities of the shootings in El Paso and Buffalo have reinforced the fears and grief that some have tried to bury or push aside.
Investigators allege the two suspects went out of town to target people of a specific race or ethnicity. Police said when they arrested the suspect in El Paso, he told them he was targeting Mexicans.
Online documents purporting to be linked to each shooting cite the conspiracy theory known as the “Great Replacement Theory,” which says Jews and Democratic elites are trying to “replace” white Americans with people of color through the through immigration policies, higher birth rates and other social changes.
Texas State Representative Mary González, D-El Paso, recalled that several Texas lawmakers warned Abbott before the El Paso shooting of his rhetoric, which was similar to that used by former President Donald Trump.
After the shooting, Latino lawmakers criticized Abbott for sending campaign letters dated the day before the attack that told supporters that “if we’re going to DEFEND Texas, we’re going to have to take matters into our own hands.”
After the campaign mailing went public, Abbott said “mistakes were made.” González said Abbott pledged not to use rhetoric that would incite violence or motivate hatred or discrimination. “However, as we have seen very recently, that is no longer the case,” she said.
“You don’t have to look far to point out Operation Lone Star and the rhetoric surrounding Operation Lone Star, and the policies implemented through Operation Lone Star, to see some very based on discrimination, based on race and national origin,” González said.
Abbott has stationed state law enforcement officers and Texas National Guard troops at the border in a program he calls Operation Lone Star, arresting people at the border, usually on enhanced trespassing charges, holding them in former state penitentiary units and prosecuting them. Hundreds of people have been released after being challenged by lawyers, immigration and civil rights groups.
In 2019, days after the El Paso attack, Abbott complained in a tweet about a Supreme Court ruling that guarantees public education for all children, regardless of immigration status. causing negative reactions.
This month he revisited the issue, telling a radio show host it was time to challenge the Supreme Court’s decision. On Friday, Abbott accused President Joe Biden of providing formula “to illegal immigrants crossing our southern border.” Providing food and shelter to detained migrants is required under a federal prosecution regulation.
“They do not live this threat”
Abbott’s critics say Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick added to the racist rhetoric. When thousands of Haitians seeking asylum camped under a border bridge in South Texas, Patrick accused Democrats of allowing them in so they could become citizens and vote and their children “thank the Democrats and Biden for bringing them here.”
Those comments and Abbott’s remarks about migrant infant formula add fuel to the fire, said state Rep. Claudia Ordaz Perez, D-El Paso, who was removed from her former district. by the new political map signed by Abbott. Several Latinos are challenging the cards in court, saying they dilute Latinos’ voting rights.
“I think they just spat those talking points without any fear because they don’t live that threat,” Ordaz Perez said. “As a woman of color myself and then representing a community of color, these comments are chilling – it resonates with people ‘committing acts of violence.
The political rhetoric emboldens and mirrors some of what is written in the “manifestos” linked to the suspects in El Paso and Buffalo and other mass shootings, particularly with regard to the “theory of the death” rhetoric. great replacement,” said Monica Muñoz Martinez. , associate professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin.
“The governor campaigned. We are in a campaign season. He’s made racist calls throughout the campaign, and it comes in the form of xenophobic rhetoric,” Martinez said.
Republican Adrienne Peña-Garza, president of the Hidalgo County party, said elected officials must redouble their efforts to unite the country and “remember why it is important for us not to divide further,” adding that “hate is dangerous”.
But she defended some of Abbott’s recent statements as necessary “conversations.”
“I live in Hidalgo County on the southern border of the United States, and you know there’s a lot of poverty here, so when you start hearing that there’s a shortage of baby formula in not only because of inflation and that it took a long time to make things, but also because, yeah, you’re giving it to a group of illegal immigrants and undocumented immigrants, those are all tough conversations to have,” said Peña-Garza.
Peña-Garza said the media often poisons the rhetoric. “I have compassion for people who are trying to find a better way of life. There has to be a balance there, which comes first, and naturally it should be your country,” she said. declared.
Abraham Enriquez, president of Bienvenido US, a recently formed Latino-focused conservative group, said in a statement that “liberal think tanks and politicians” have pushed for “weak borders and amnesty” in the United States. hope to swing the election in their favor, adding that saying so is not “espousing replacement theory”.
But for Ordaz Perez of El Paso, the recent shootings have reignited fear and a sense that things haven’t really changed.
“You had such a hate crime in El Paso, Texas, and instead of adding protections to communities of color, and even when our law enforcement and faith communities objected to our carrying without a license, the state of Texas passed these anyway,” she said of the new Texas law allowing people to carry guns without a license. “Instead of adding protections, anyone can now walk free from 18 with a gun without any kind of training or license.
“It’s just a scary time. I’m not going to lie. It certainly brought back some really hurtful memories,” Ordaz Perez said of the recent shootings. “And it’s like it’s gone again.”
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