Dated the day before a white supremacist gunman opened fire at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart — known to be frequented by people in Mexican and Latino communities — killing 22 people, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent a fundraising letter imploring Republicans to “take matters into our own hands” and “DEFEND” the state from immigrants.
Marked Aug. 2, the mailer came stuffed in an envelope lashing out at Democratic lawmakers Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer for refusing to do anything about the “CRISIS on the SOUTHERN Border.”
“45,000 illegal immigrants CROSSED into Texas,” the front of the envelope states in big red text. “THAT’S WHY WE MUST DO THIS...”
The letter, which was first reported by the Texas Signal, then begins, “If we’re going to DEFEND Texas, we’ll need to take matters into our own hands,” and again states that “45,000 illegal immigrants” were caught crossing the “Mexican border into Texas.”
Comparing that number to entire populations of Texan cities, the governor lashed out at Washington, DC, lawmakers, saying they refuse to work with president Trump to secure the border.
He then called out “radical socialists like [Rep.] Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” insinuating that the “Democrat machine” wants to “turn Texas blue.”
“If they can do it in California, they can do it in Texas — if we let them,” he wrote, asking for donations to help thwart the looming “disaster” and “DEFEND TEXAS NOW.”
The two-page letter hammered the same flagrant, false, anti-immigrant rhetoric Republicans, emboldened by Trump, have been touting for years: that good, “law-abiding” Americans are in danger as “drug traffickers and violent gangs swarm our border.”
He wrote, it’s up to Texan residents to take a stand and “FIGHT BACK” against the liberals and the media, who do nothing “when innocent young Americans are murdered at the hands of those who should have never been in our country in the first place.”
Although the Houston Chronicle points out that Republican strategists say the mailer is a normal example of a fundraising rallying cry, residents and Texan Democrats say this type of inflammatory, sensationalized language is resulting in an increased hatred and violence toward Mexicans and Latinos.
Hours before gunning down shoppers in the Walmart, the El Paso shooter said in a lengthy manifesto that he was motivated by a hatred of immigrants and that he was “defending his country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.”
The gunman said he was concerned that a “Hispanic invasion” will make Texas a “Democratic stronghold.”
Days after the massacre, El Paso residents rallied to protest Trump’s visit to their city, saying that they partly blamed the president’s unrelenting attacks on immigrants and Mexicans for the mass shooting.
Rep. Veronica Escobar, who serves El Paso, said in a statement that Abbott’s letter is a prime example of how Republicans’ language is impacting immigrant communities.
"Greg Abbott has painted the border as a dangerous place, and he’s used words intended to dehumanize the vulnerable, and incite anger, fear and hatred of immigrants," she said. "These words have consequences, and give fuel to those whose hatred turns to violence. It isn’t immigrants that make communities like mine unsafe; it’s the hateful and divisive rhetoric and policies of politicians like Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick and Donald Trump."
Manny Garcia, the executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, said that Texan Republicans have been using fear-inducing terms like “invasion” as part of a political strategy for years.
“The language Trump has used for the past few years was piloted in Texas,” Garcia said Thursday. “Texan Republicans sent the National Guard down to the border claiming there was a crisis and have been using this language all the way and it’s found its way into policy, like SB4, the ‘show me your paper law,’ that recently passed.”
However, he said that the state’s GOP has taken an increasingly hostile and hateful stance toward Mexicans and Latinos since Trump’s election, pointing to a 2016 CNN interview in which Abbott said he didn’t know if Republicans should disavow KKK support.
In his fundraising letter, Abbott pledged to dedicate nearly $1 billion of the state’s budget to secure the border. The governor promised to order more National Guard troops and Public Safety officers, fund more boats to patrol the Rio Grande, and deploy more “eyes in the sky” to look out for cartels and smugglers.
On Thursday, the governor hosted the first meeting of the new Texas Safety Commission, which he formed after the Walmart massacre. After the four-hour closed-door session, the Texas Tribune reported that Abbott listed issues and ideas on how to stymie mass shootings, including better collaboration between social media companies and law enforcement and bolstering the state’s domestic terrorism law.
Abbott said he was concerned about private firearm sales but did not give any concrete promise or plan to reform gun laws, according to the Associated Press.
The commission will host another meeting next Thursday, and then Abbott said he will issue a report with the group’s recommendations on how to curtail mass shootings, just like he did after a gunman killed 10 people at Santa Fe High School last May.
Abbott did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the mailer.