Opinion: ‘Tell him not to come here’
In the days and weeks following the implementation of Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070, known as the “show us your papers” law, I took to telling almost anyone who would listen, especially people with power: “My people are being hunted.”
By “my people,” I meant the undocumented immigrants who were the main target of the now notorious 2010 bill – but it was also a reference to the state’s fast-growing Latino community overall.
Not long after the bill was signed into law, my then-7-year-old daughter, a U.S. citizen, asked: “Daddy, are we going to get arrested?”
I assured her we wouldn’t, but deep inside I’d never felt so unwelcome in the country where I was born as I did on the day 1070 was signed into law.
The bill’s main champions were Senate President Russell Pearce and Gov. Jan Brewer, both Republicans, though Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was more than happy to take on the dirty work of rounding up immigrants, and even a U.S. citizen from time to time, by mounting random raids and roadblocks.
The goal of SB 1070 was to get undocumented immigrants to flee the state, or else face the risk of arrest and deportation. Tens of thousands did leave, some waiting only as long as it took for their children to finish school year that year.
Fast forward to Saturday’s mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart, and the legally sanctioned right-wing bigotry inspired by SB1070 and hundreds of copycat laws across the country has mutated into an act of domestic terror that one overseas newspaper this week described as the “greatest racist crime against Hispanics in modern United States history.”
The man who wielded the semi-automatic rifle that left 22 people dead, nearly all of them Latino, and more than two dozen others wounded surrendered to police, but President Trump seems determined to pour salt onto the Texas border town’s fresh wounds instead of filling the traditional role of comforting the city and the nation.
The president traveled to El Paso, after a stopover in Dayton, Ohio, where a separate mass shooting on Sunday at a popular entertainment district left 10 dead, including the alleged killer, and 27 others wounded.
Community leaders and average citizens in both cities made clear to Trump that his visits were not welcomed.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said Trump’s hateful rhetoric since taking office “has been painful for many in our community.” El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, a Republican, agreed to meet with Trump, but pledged to tell the president what he thought of the president’s racially divisive politics and rhetoric.
In El Paso, U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar rejected an invitation by the White House to join Trump on his visit there. She said Trump’s relentless verbal attacks against immigrants and Hispanics, dating back to the first day of his campaign when he called Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals, were partly to blame for the bloody massacre in her hometown.
A hate-filled screed posted online by the El Paso shooter warned of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas” and featured other racial epithets.
Trump, too, has repeatedly characterized the arrival of immigrants at the border as an “invasion” – and continues to do so in campaign ads. He has also falsely claimed that El Paso is “one of the most dangerous cities in the country.”
A study released in April found the city was one of the top 10 safest in the nation, at least until Saturday’s massacre.
Trump has also openly condoned threats of violence against immigrants. In May, at a campaign rally in Florida, Trump asked a crowd of raucous supporters, “How do you stop these people? You can’t, there’s —” At that point, a video of the speech shows Trump stopped himself as someone in the crowd yelled, “Shoot them!”
The president pauses, smirks, then cracks a joke at the suggestion of violence as a solution: “That’s only in the [Florida] Panhandle can you get away with that statement.”
As the crowd cheered wildly, Trump stood basking in the applause for several seconds before continuing his remarks.
Escobar told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews last week that one of the people wounded in the rampage took her by the arm during a hospital visit and said, referring to the president, “Tell him not to come here.”
The president, of course, did visit Dayton and El Paso, taking the opportunity on Twitter that same day to criticize local officials in both cities.
Let’s face it. Trump didn’t give a damn what the good people of these shattered communities wanted or needed. He’s proven time and again that he’s incapable of expressing true compassion.
For Trump, it’s always about Trump.
..The President was treated like a Rock Star inside the hospital, which was all caught on video. They all loved seeing their great President!
— Dan Scavino Jr.🇺🇸 (@Scavino45) August 7, 2019
The visit to Dayton was about letting the president’s supporters know that he has their back in the face of widespread criticism that he is making divisive racial politics a key pillar of his 2020 re-election campaign.
The president’s trip to El Paso was his way of sticking a thumb in the eye of the city’s Democratic-leaning Hispanic population, and Mayor Margo, a critic of the president’s, along with anyone else who suggests that his racist rhetoric could have played a role in the shooter’s actions.
The grotesque irony of the shooting in El Paso is that Trump has been claiming since the launch of his presidential campaign that the only way to keep America safe from the people he routinely characterizes as murderous and marauding immigrant hordes is to build a “great, great wall.”
Yet, a U.S. citizen, spouting anti-Latino rhetoric virtually identical to what Trump says and weiding a weapon designed to kill as many human beings as possible as quickly as possible, drove 10 hours to El Paso from his home in Allen, Texas to hunt and murder 22 innocent people.
And the nearly 17,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents and almost 700 miles of existing barriers stretched along the U.S.-Mexico border, including in El Paso, couldn’t do a damned thing to stop him.
Editor’s note: This column was originally published on azmirror.com.