Gov. Greg Abbott sparked outrage on Monday by referring to the victims of a mass shooting that occurred in Texas over the weekend as “illegal immigrants,” accusing him of “dehumanizing” them.
Abbott offered a $50,000 reward on his personal and official Twitter accounts for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who used an AR-15 rifle to execute five neighbors in Cleveland, Texas, including a 9-year-old boy, on Friday night. On Monday afternoon, the suspect, Francisco Oropesa, was still at large.
Republican Abbott claimed that the prize was for the capture of a person “who is in the country illegally and killed five illegal immigrants.”
The message received quick criticism on social media from haters, who also added information in the form of a “community note” by readers who claimed the initial tweet is misleading. The memo also included the names of the victims and stated that at least one of them was a legitimate American citizen.
It is confirmed that Daniel Enrique Laso, who authorities initially claimed was 8 years old, was actually 9 years old. Police identified the other four as Jose Jonathan Casarez, 18, Sonia Argentina Guzman, 25, Diana Velazquez Alvarado, 21, and Julisa Molina Rivera, 31.
Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, stated that it was beneath the dignity of the governor to question the legal standing of the victims of a mass massacre.
“The suspect gunman and all of the victims are Latino. This tragedy had a second serial homicide with a combat weapon being used in the crime. The problem, not the victims’ legal standing, is that.
Greg Abbott’s first remark was to use this tragedy as a dog whistle, according to Maritza Wong, a volunteer with Texas Moms Demand Action, a group that supports tougher gun control regulations.
Meanwhile, our governor continues to disregard public safety every day by refusing to implement the most fundamental changes to Texas’ gun laws that would make our families safer.
The executive director of the immigrant rights organization America’s Voice, Vanessa Cárdenas, wrote in an email that “the only thing that should matter to the Governor” is that this was “another mass shooting that killed innocent people” who were Texas residents.
“Shame on Governor Abbott for turning a horrific family tragedy and community tragedy into another in his relentless effort to dehumanize immigrants and demonize immigration,” she added. Greg Abbott, of all others, should understand the power of words and the responsibility of his public discourse. It’s also an obscenity that adds to one family’s pain.
In a statement released late on Monday, the governor’s spokesperson, Renae Eze, accused the federal government of giving the state inaccurate information about the suspect and the victims.
Since then, “we’ve learned that at least one of the victims may have been in the United States legally,” Eze added. She said, “We apologise if the information was erroneous and distracted from the crucial objective of locating and apprehending the offender.
Additionally, the office stated, “Any loss of life is a tragedy, and our hearts go out to the families who have lost a loved one.”
An email Monday morning asking about the victims’ immigration status was not immediately answered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
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