Saturday, September 26, 2020

Immigrants Are Targets in Tragic Mass Shooting

Jordan Anchonda, 25, a mother of three shielded her 2-month-old son, Paul, from gunfire from a mass shooter in an El Paso, Texas Walmart. Investigators found Jordan’s dead body holding her son who was able to survive because she gave her life to save his. Now Paul and his two siblings must grow up without their mother.

When Paul grows older, loved ones will explain to him that his mother was killed by someone who never knew her, by a complete stranger who targeted her only because of a hate for Mexicans and hate for immigrants.

It’s an unimaginable scenario, but it’s a disturbing reality for Paul.

Shooting survivor Octavio Ramiro Lizarde said he watched his nephew Javier Amir Rodriguez, 15, get gunned down before him. Javier, the youngest victim killed in the shooting, was robbed of a future that fateful day –denied a chance to fulfill his dreams, to have a family of his own.

All these tragedies, all the sorrow transpired because the alleged mass murderer Patrick Crusius – a non El Paso resident, white nationalist radical from Allen Texas – drove 10 hours specifically with El Paso as his destination to target Mexicans living at the border city. He wrote in a manifesto authorities linked to him that the attack was a “response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” He called immigrants, “invaders” – a term frequently used by President Donald Trump and adopted by radical right extremists.

August 3, 2019 – will not only be a day to remember for El Pasoans, Texans and Americans.

But it is also a day significant specifically for immigrant communities across the United States because it was the first time a mass shooter targeted immigrants in this country.

The FBI defines a mass shooting as a multiple homicide incident in which four or more victims are murdered with firearms, within one event, and in one or more locations in close proximity.

The hate-driven carnage in El Paso resulted in 22 people killed and 27 injured. It goes down as the seventh deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history

El Paso Sheriff Richard Wiles said, “I’m outraged and you should be too. This entire nation should be outraged. In this day and age, with all the serious issues we face, we are still confronted with people who will kill another for the sole reason of the color of their skin.”


A city Transformed by Illegal Immigration Debates

Because of the heated politics over building a border wall and the outcry of inhumane migrant detentions in and nearby El Paso, the city has become ground zero of the nation’s clamor over illegal immigration.

Residents say it wasn’t always like this. Illegal immigration has always been an issue but migrant caravans from Central America just started recently.

Residents say before Trump became president, El Paso was somewhat of a sleepy city, not much in the news. They say they take pride in having their city year after year be recognized as one of the safest in the nation; and that it is largely a welcoming immigrant community.

But El Pasoans claim things have changed because of the president. The city has been misrepresented. It has been getting unflattering national news that is only a small part of the city. El Pasoans are polarized over all the changes surrounding them. But still many residents felt safe despite all the anti-immigrant sentiments swirling throughout the nation. That was before an outsider white nationalist decided to make that city a target of his hate.

Former Texas congressman and native of El Paso Beto O’Rourke called the president out after the shooting, blaming him for the violence in part for his repeated attacks on Mexicans and immigrants.

“We have a President right now who traffics in this hatred, who incites this violence, who calls Mexican immigrants ‘rapists’ and ‘criminals,’ who calls asylum seekers ‘animals’ and ‘an infestation.’ ”

“You may call a cockroach an infestation. You may use that word in the Third Reich to describe those who are undesirable, who must be put down, because they are subhuman. You do not expect to hear that in the United States of America, in this age, in our generation, with this beautiful country that decided two hundred and forty-three years ago that we would not define ourselves by race, or ethnicity, or our differences, but by the fact that we are all created equal,” said O’Rourke.


Dayton, OH and Gilroy, CA shootings

President Trump denounced white supremacy in the wake of the mass shootings. “In one voice our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” Trump said at the White House. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated.”

Thirteen hours after the El Paso shooting, another mass shooting broke out in Dayton, Ohio, in which 10 people were killed and 27 injured. Preliminary investigations indicate the shooter in that incident had no racial or political motive, unlike what occurred in El Paso.

Just one week prior to both these shootings, there was another mass murder in Gilroy, California; four were killed and 13 injured. Like the shooter in El Paso, this gunman is believed to have been a white supremacist.

The president visited Dayton and El Paso to meet with victims and first responders.

El Paso Democrats said that the president wasn’t welcomed because the city was still healing and didn’t need more division. Several victims at a local hospital refused to meet with the president.


Trump, Center of turmoil

University of Hawaii at Manoa Professor Emeritus and political scientist Dr. Belinda Aquino told the Filipino Chronicle, “Trump is at the center of all this turmoil regarding the current state of unrest in the country caused by the recent occurrences of mass killings and its consequences, which will last for a long time even after Trump is long gone from the public scene.

University of Hawaii at Manoa Professor Emeritus and political scientist Dr. Belinda Aquino told the Filipino Chronicle, “Trump is at the center of all this turmoil regarding the current state of unrest in the country caused by the recent occurrences of mass killings and its consequences, which will last for a long time even after Trump is long gone from the public scene.

University of Hawaii Manoa Professor of Ethnic Studies Jonathan Okamura also shared his opinions with the Filipino Chronicle, “It would not be fair to blame Trump for recent mass killings since they certainly preceded his presidency, such as at Columbine and Sandy Hook. But the targeting of Mexican Americans by the gunman at El Paso can be readily connected to his ongoing efforts to build a wall along the border with Mexico and his demonizing of Mexicans as rapists and criminals the day he announced his presidential campaign.

“Trump certainly has contributed to the racist xenophobia in the United States, even before he was elected president. His attacks against immigrants and U.S. citizens of color, such as his calls for the four Congresswomen who have criticized him to go back to their home countries, need to be recognized as racist insofar as they constitute a denial of their national belonging in America. With his comments, Trump is obviously playing to his base of support, noncollege-educated, working class Whites, who would like to make America White again, despite the inevitability of a majority non-White population by 2040, especially as a result of the increasing number of Latinos.”

Melody Reyes of Ewa Beach and daughter of immigrants from Ilocos Sur, Philippines believes Trump’s words might have had an impact on the shooter. “I think all the stuff he’s (Trump) been saying about immigrants and making us look like a danger to our country can make crazy people do bad things.

“My heart breaks for these innocent people who were killed. You know, nobody there expected something like this. To be honest I am a little concerned because Hawaii is also a big immigrant community too. With all the crazy people and guns everywhere, you just never know where the next mass killing will take place.

“This president got to stop calling immigrants ‘invaders’ and dividing the country for his own gain. He’s selfish. Is winning an election worth destroying our country? I got to ask. People should see through what he’s doing. He’s attacking immigrants to get votes from Americans who don’t like us.”


Linking hateful rhetoric to violence

Top Democrats and presidential hopefuls besides O’Rourke linked the president’s anti-immigrant and hateful rhetoric to violence.

“Well, there’s no question that white nationalism is condoned at the highest level of our government,” said South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg. “Right now, you see it being echoed by the White House and there is a measure of responsibility that you just can’t get away from when you have case after case of racial rhetoric coming out of the White House.”

Former vice president Joe Biden blamed Trump for stirring up the worse in Americans, saying that, “Days before the midterm, he fomented fears of a caravan headed to the United States and created hysteria when he said ‘Look, look at what’s marching up. This is an invasion.’”

Trump regularly speaks of an “invasion” which word the El Paso shooter used to describe the Hispanicization of Texas and the rest of the country.

On Facebook alone, Trump’s campaign has run 2,200 ads since May 2018 mentioning the word “invasion” when referring to immigrants at the southern border, according to social network’s political advertising archive.


Hate crimes rise since Trump’s election

The recent shooting has brought new attention to hate crimes.

Statistics released by the FBI late last year showed hate crimes in the U.S. rose 17 percent in 2017, one year after Trump assumed office. There were 7,175 hate crime incidents in 2017, crimes motivated by hatred over race or ethnicity.

Studies by the Center for Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino also showed that in times when there has been intense political incidents on race – such as after the race riots in Charlottesville, Virginia – reported hate crimes nationally rose to 663 incidents, the second-highest tally in nearly a decade (second only to the month when Trump was elected president with 758 incidents).

Experts say fiery political speech or heated race-related events do have an impact in increasing violence motivated by hate.

Researchers say the actual numbers of hate incidences could be even higher because many of these types of crimes go unreported. Tracking hate crimes is also difficult because some states have no hate crime laws.

In another study from the University of North Texas, it found counties that hosted a 2016 Trump campaign rally saw a 226 percent increase in reported hate incidents over comparable counties that did not host such a rally.

North Texas political science professor Valerie Martinez-Ebers, said “I’m convinced now that political rhetoric of elites influences the behavior of supporters. This research confirms, at least in my mind, that the political rhetoric that’s happening today is influencing the American public’s actions.”

While the president condemned the El Paso and Dayton shootings, critics say he doesn’t have the moral authority to be the leader against hate crimes because of all the hateful rhetoric he has and continues to make.

Heidi Beirich, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, says Trump’s words have fueled anti-immigrant hatred and amplified conspiracy theories that non-white immigrants are systematically replacing whites.

“What Trump has done has heightened those fears,” she said.


Stronger gun laws

Following any high publicized mass murders in the U.S., a rallying cry for lawmakers to act on tougher gun control laws resumes.

Senator Bernie Sanders said “After every tragedy the Senate, intimidated by the NRA’s power, does nothing. This must change. We need a president and congress that listen to Americans, not the ideology of a right-wing extremist organization. We must pass common sense gun safety legislation.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring lawmakers back to Washington for an emergency session on gun control.

The Democrat-controlled House earlier this year passed a Universal Background Check law that was sent to the Senate for vote. Senator McConnell hasn’t held any hearings on the bill.

Instead of committing to work on stiffer gun laws following these latest mass shootings, Republicans and the President went back to an old playbook – to blame violence on video games and Hollywood movies.

President Trump said, “We must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace.”

Republican congressman Kevin McCarthy, the U.S. House minority leader, said, “We’ve watched from studies, shown before, what it (violent video games) does to individuals, and you look at these photos of how it took place, you can see the actions within video games and others.”

Video games have been blamed by Republicans since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. The American Psychological Association released a statement saying, “Scant evidence has emerged that makes any causal or correlational connection between playing violent video games and actually committing violent activities.”

Psychology professor at Stetson University Christ Ferguson said studies show violent video games are not a risk factor for acts of aggression. “The data on bananas causing suicide is about as conclusive,” said Ferguson. “Literally. The numbers work out about the same.”


Fight against racism

Okamura said, “The U.S. has long had a White nationalist domestic terrorism problem, if we recognize the Ku Klux Klan as such an organization, and there are many others that recruit members through the internet. But rather than focus on terrorists, we need to acknowledge the much larger presence of racists in America, beginning with Trump and his absurd assertion that he ‘is the least racist person anywhere in the world.’ The widespread prevalence of racism in the U.S. needs to be recognized as a major problem rather than viewing it as an aberration that only surfaces in violent incidents or in individuals who use racist slurs.”

He added, “The emphasis needs to be on reducing, if not eliminating, racism in its systemic forms, such as in policies and practices that result in unequal treatment, instead of focusing on individuals who make racist comments. We need to develop laws and policies that foster equal opportunity, such as greater funding for public education, and get rid of those that result in inequality, such as tax benefits for the wealthy.”


Where we go from here

Reyes said she is not confident mass murders will stop because Americans are not willing to change gun laws. “I’m afraid things will be the same. We get angry, are sad, each time there is a mass killing, then the media and politicians move on and the people forget, until it happens again. I’m tired of this. People need to look at who (which politician) is coming up with excuses all the time when it comes to changing gun laws. If you want the killings to stop, vote these guys out.”