EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Texas has become ground zero for a new “racist and xenophobic” agenda that Gov. Greg Abbott and former President Trump will seek to further during their Wednesday visit to the border, leaders of pro-immigration groups said.
The groups are planning a gathering in South Texas to counter Abbott and Trump’s town hall event in Weslaco, and their leaders are calling on residents to fight what they say is a false narrative about the region.
“We have now become the new Arizona in terms of how state leadership is presenting migrants and border communities,” said Adriana Cadena, coordinator of Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance (RITA). “This has been building up for the last few years … it’s an escalation of Abbott’s attempts to present our immigrant communities in a very maligned manner.”
Abbott earlier this month said the state would build new border wall given the Biden administration’s reluctance to do so amid a migrant surge not seen in the past 20 years. He placed 34 counties – later amended to 28 counties – under a disaster declaration due to the migrant surge. He also suggested the state will house detained migrants in state jails and have state police officers detain unauthorized foreigners found trespassing.
Trump held his first rally last Saturday in Ohio since leaving office, bashing President Joe Biden for policies Republicans say led to the surge in illegal immigration. “You have millions of people coming into our country. We have no idea who they are,” Trump said. Department of Homeland Security figures show 180,000 migrant apprehensions last month and half a million in the past three months, but not millions.
“Yes, we are a nation with freedom of speech and expression, but when you incite someone saying that immigrants are criminals and you just need to go to the border and stop the invasion, then you’re walking on very dangerous ground,” said Fernando Garcia, executive director of Border Network for Human Rights. “That’s what Mr. Abbott is doing. That dangerous narrative paints immigrants or border residents as criminals.”
Garcia has blamed Trump for allegedly inspiring a North Texas man who came to El Paso and shoot 23 people dead after posting an online manifesto decrying a “Hispanic invasion” of Texas.
The Aug. 3, 2019, massacre at an El Paso Walmart came as Trump ramped up anti-illegal immigration rhetoric while trying to bring under control the previous migrant surge. “Twenty-three people in our community died because of the words of an irresponsible president,” Garcia said.
Cadena said the presence of state troopers hasn’t made border communities safer but rather expose Hispanic residents to harassment and intimidation. “The latest insult is coming tomorrow to the Rio Grande Valley with President Trump presenting his false narrative, his false idea of what the border is. For us, what is important today is to present the reality of who we really are as we try to grapple how our communities are being portrayed,” Cadena said.
Kate Huddleston, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said Abbott’s immigration bluster seeks to distract Texans from “his own governing failures and the very real problems” facing the state. She said the group sent a letter to officials in the counties declared disaster areas by Abbott, reminding them it’s illegal for local law enforcement to enforce immigration laws.
“The disaster declaration is seeking to scapegoat a group of people he sees as vulnerable to create fear,” she said.
Huddleston concurred with Cadena in comparing Texas today to Arizona circa 2005-2012. That’s when Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio ran for office on a promise to stop illegal immigration and went on to raid day-laborer centers and conduct saturation patrols in Hispanic neighborhoods. That led to several civil rights lawsuits. Arizona also passed SB 1070, a state law allowing local law enforcement to check immigration status. The U.S. Supreme Court struck the law down in 2012.
The Abbott-Trump counterrally takes place from 9 to 11 a.m. Wednesday at La Union del Pueblo (LUPE) offices in San Juan, Texas.