Hispanics say Trump's words are too little, too late

Hispanics say Trump's words are too little, too late

President TrumpDonald TrumpDOJ asks Supreme Court to revive Boston Marathon bomber death sentence, in break with Biden vow Biden looking to build momentum for Putin meeting DOJ tells media execs that reporters were not targets of investigations MORE's condemnation of "racism, bigotry and white supremacy" is failing to soothe Hispanics in the wake of the shooting in El Paso, Texas, as members of the community fear more physical violence amid a climate of heightened rhetoric on immigration.

Local community leaders and Hispanic groups across the country also say the president's words are too little, too late, as they call on Trump to cancel his planned visit to El Paso Wednesday.

"President Trump owes an apology to all the victims in Gilroy, California and El Paso, Texas for using a predatory rhetoric and failing to condemn hate groups when, from the beginning of his presidency, after Charlottesville and leading all the way up to El Paso, he's created a toxic political environment and opened up a Pandora's box of white extremists," said Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).


The shooting in an El Paso Walmart that killed 22 people — which was followed by a separate shooting in Dayton, Ohio, just hours later — have galvanized Democrats against Trump, whose rhetoric they blame for having contributed to the killings in Texas. 

The El Paso killer had reportedly published a racist, anti-immigrant manifesto describing fears of a Latino "invasion," and the shooting is being treated by federal investigators as a domestic terrorist incident. El Paso is a border town with an overwhelmingly majority Hispanic population. 

Trump on Monday issued his strongest censure of racial violence to date.

“In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” Trump said in a speech from the White House. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America.”

He also confirmed Tuesday that he will visit El Paso, as well as Dayton, "to meet with first responders, law enforcement, and some of the victims of the terrible shootings."

But Garcia said victims in El Paso remain upset at the Trump administration and do not welcome his visit.

"Yesterday at the hospital I talked to a father whose daughter was shot three times and is in critical condition," said Garcia.

"He was extremely upset at the administration, and I don't know it would be the best time for [Trump] to go now while this city and people are still grieving and recuperating from this terrible tragedy," he added.

Some local El Paso leaders have said they will not appear with Trump, including Rep. Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarGun violence: Save the thoughts and prayers, it's time for Senate action Five things to watch in Biden's first joint address to Congress HuffPost reporter: DCCC will help Dems fend off progressive challengers to 'keep them happy' MORE (D-Texas), who represents the city in Congress.

Escobar said she refuses to be "an accessory to his visit."

"I refuse to join without a dialogue about the pain his racist and hateful words & actions have caused our community and country," she said in a series of tweets. "Tomorrow, I will again be spending time with fellow El Pasoans who are dealing with the pain and horror left in the wake of this act of domestic terrorism fueled by hate and racism."

White House officials went on the offensive Tuesday, defending the president's denunciation of white supremacists and intent to visit El Paso and Dayton. They have also pushed back against Democrats who blame Trump's rhetoric as having contributed to the Texas shootings.

"There are plenty of people in this country who commit acts of evil in the name of politicians, of celebrities, of all types of things," White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told reporters Tuesday.

"It's not the politician's fault when someone acts out their evil intention," added Gidley.

The El Paso shooting comes amid an electoral season in which immigration is likely to be front and center.

Trump has pushed hard for a border wall along the southern border, a stance that led to a government shutdown that started late last year. He has also made clear he intends to campaign on immigration, believing it will help him get reelected in 2020.

But Mario H. Lopez, president of the conservative Hispanic Leadership Fund, said that Trump's rhetoric moving forward would have to change after the attack, and added Trump would also need to change the administration's immigration proposals.

"For the longest time, you know, we would have preferred a different rhetorical posture," said Lopez.

"I think there's nothing wrong with border security, and there's nothing wrong with perhaps some of the other changes might be made. But in terms of conflating legal immigrants versus illegal immigrants, in terms of accusing all of them of bringing crime and being rapists and that kind of thing, at the end of the day, it's not helpful to the kind of policy changes that he says that he wants," he said.

Lopez also assigned some of the blame to Democrats, saying they are "politicizing" the attacks and have had a hand in breaking down negotiations on immigration reform.

Democratic candidates are already looking to take on Trump by tying his strident rhetoric on immigration to a climate of fear and violence.  

Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeO'Rourke considering Texas governor bid: report O'Rourke clarifies remarks, leaves door open to gubernatorial bid O'Rourke says he's not planning on run for Texas governor MORE, a former congressman representing El Paso, has been among the most vociferous, mounting a full court press in defense of his hometown as a multicultural mecca.

Janet Murguía, president of UnidosUS, the country's largest Latino civil rights organization, said in a New York Times op-ed that the El Paso attack "is the violence Latinos have been dreading," as she hit Trump for having contributed to it.

"The violence in El Paso is not about immigration policy. It is about promoting the hate, fear and division sown by President Trump," she wrote.

Murguía also cited a poll conducted by their group that showed "overwhelming support from Latino voters for a candidate who pledges to restore our American values, specifically a candidate who remembers that diversity is our nation’s strength, and who will work to unite all Americans."

Some Hispanic groups already see the El Paso shooting as a "galvanizing moment" to defeat Trump.

Garcia said LULAC members have so far reacted with "a mix of fear that there will be more attacks" and a renewed push to mobilize voters against Trump in 2020 for a voto de castigo — a punishment vote.

"I think it's definitely a galvanizing moment. Every Latino in the United States is now politically aware that their vote means something because of what happened in El Paso and what happened in Gilroy," he said, referring to the shooting last month at a garlic festival in Gilroy, Calif.