El Paso Has Exposed the Ugly Reality of the “Immigration Debate”

In the summer of 2016 while covering Trump’s so-called illegal immigration speech in Phoenix, I spoke to an older woman in a wheelchair from Chicago. She told me in an even tone that Hispanics and immigrants come to the country to get on welfare. They want “freebies.” My expression didn’t change—what she was saying wasn’t surprising given the topic of the day—but I continued to look her in the eye when she added a qualifier: “Well not you, of course.”

The immigration narrative in this country has traditionally distinguished between people in the country illegally (bad) and people of the same ethnicity or background who immigrate legally or were born here (good). But one consequence of the heinous, racist, cowardly shooting targeting Mexicans and immigrants in the majority-Hispanic border town of El Paso Saturday is how it burst the bubble anyone may still be trying to live in—that this isn’t ultimately about white supremacists doing what it takes, including brutal violence, to stop the country from changing.

Fact-checking the warped musings of a deranged, white supremacist killer has lots of drawbacks. But you couldn’t help but notice that off the bat the manifesto authorities linked to the killer referenced “the Hispanic invasion of Texas” and the loss of his idyllic white Texas, bizarre claims given that Texas was Mexico until 1836 and El Paso was part of Mexico until 1848. Hard-hitting intellectualism this is not.

Far more troubling is how closely the language used by the murderer echoes Trump administration messaging. Trump called immigration along the southern border an “invasion” six times in seven months: once in November and December each, and twice in January and again in June, all before telling four congresswomen of color to go back to where they came from. At a rally in May, Trump asked, “How do you stop these people?” A follower in the crowd responded, “shoot them.” Trump laughed and pointed.

By Adrian Carrasquillo for NEWREPUBLIC.COM
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