Congresswoman Veronica Escobar Statement for Field Hearing on the Trump Administration’s Border Policies and the Relationship Between Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric and Domestic Terrorism

September 6, 2019
Press Release

(El Paso, TX) – Today, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16), member of the House Judiciary Committee, chaired a Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship field hearing in El Paso, TX entitled “Oversight of the Trump Administration’s Border Policies and the Relationship Between Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric and Domestic Terrorism.” Below are Congresswoman Escobar’s opening statement as prepared:

Unfortunately, it is only too fitting that this hearing is being held in El Paso, a place that has had to endure the target painted on our backs because of anti-immigrant rhetoric, and a community that has been ground zero for the Trump administration’s cruel immigration policies.

Anti-immigrant rhetoric is on the rise today and is inflamed by President Trump.

Criminals, rapists, drug dealers.   That’s how then-candidate Trump described Mexicans when he launched his campaign.

The rhetoric continues into his presidency.  In a meeting in the Oval Office, he described some African nations as “s*** hole countries” when discussing whether those nationals were worthy of immigration relief.  

He’s called immigrants “animals.”

And the rhetoric has only escalated over time.

One study found that President Trump has used words like “invasion” and “killer” more than 500 times to describe immigrants.

And the President’s rhetoric influences public opinion.

Recent polling from the Pew Research Center found that 57% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say that the U.S. risks losing its identity if America is too open to foreigners.   This number is up 13 points from last year.

Even more frightening is the xenophobic mania that is whipped up at the President’s rallies when he uses words that dehumanize.

Many of us were absolutely stunned when, at a Florida rally in May, the President rhetorically asked the crowd what he should do with migrants who crossed the border.

One of the President’s supporters yelled, “Shoot them!”    And the President laughed.

Research indicates that counties that hosted a Trump campaign rally saw a 226% increase in reported hate crimes over counties that didn’t host those rallies.

Well, President Trump hosted a rally in El Paso in February.

And on August 3, a domestic terrorist drove over 600 miles to El Paso, where people of color are the majority (80% of us are Latino), and where immigrants make up a quarter of the population. 

The terrorist confessed that he came to El Paso to “target Mexicans”  and immigrants.  He killed 22 people, injured dozens, and left an entire community in mourning.  El Paso has a long journey ahead of her.

Minutes before his attack, the terrorist posted a “racist screed” on the internet decrying a “Hispanic invasion.”

These words echo words President Trump has used in the past. 

Words have consequences.

Now, let’s turn to the President’s policies.

It should be no surprise that a president who calls immigrants “animals” can justify treating them as such.

Children have died in custody, there’s been horrific overcrowding in Border Patrol facilities, there’s been force-feeding of adults in custody (happening now, here at the El Paso ICE facility), and continued traumatic family separation.

This administration has admitted to using cruelty as a deterrent, and that includes forcing migrants to wait their turn to apply for asylum in Mexico – a country that is not their own – in what’s called “metering.”

And once they request asylum, they are forced back again under the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) to wait for their day in court.

In the El Paso Sector, migrants are left to fend for themselves in Ciudad Juarez.

Through the casework assistance my office provides, we are aware of abuses with MPP.  Vulnerable populations who should ostensibly not be subjected to MPP are being sent back, including Mexican nationals, pregnant women, and migrants with severe mental disabilities

Those sent back suffer harassment and danger.  One father of a young family was kidnapped and beaten while trying to find diapers. Another young woman was raped by Mexican federal police.

In my nine months in Congress, it is clearer than ever that this Administration governs with cruelty.

We must understand the human toll of these policies, the inhumanity and the indignities that immigrants suffer as we consider funding for the departments that execute those policies.  And as for the anti-immigrant rhetoric, for many of us those words have become a matter of life and death.