Tragedy struck Cleveland, Texas, last Friday when a man killed five of his neighbors after they complained about him firing an AR-15 on his property late at night. With the shooter still on the loose, Texas Governor Greg Abbott was quick to shift the focus away from the real issue and onto the immigration status of the victims.
Abbott announced in a statement that the victims were “illegal immigrants” and emphasized that the gunman, Francisco Oropeza, was an undocumented resident. This clear attempt to redirect attention away from the core issue of gun violence and onto immigration status is both misleading and disingenuous.
Abbott’s statement was not only factually incorrect – at least one of the victims, Diana Velasquez Alvarado, had a green card – but it was also a final, dehumanizing insult to those who lost their lives. By focusing on the immigration status of the victims and the shooter, Abbott perpetuates the harmful narrative that undocumented residents are a violent, criminal class threatening peaceful communities.
This is not the first time Abbott has prioritized political messaging over human dignity. After a mass shooting in El Paso in 2019, Abbott sent out a fundraising email echoing right-wing tropes about immigrants, despite promising to avoid using dangerous rhetoric. He has continued to use the term “invasion” to describe migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, even invoking the Invasion Clauses of the U.S. and Texas Constitutions to justify his border efforts.
Abbott’s recent statement on the Cleveland shooting is another example of his willingness to exploit tragedy for political gain. By defining everyone involved by their immigration status, he attempts to distance the situation from the very American reality of gun violence. It’s time for politicians like Abbott to face the truth and address the root cause of these tragedies instead of further dehumanizing the victims.