Stephanie Valencia is the co-founder of EquisLabs. Joaquin Castro, a Democrat, represents Texas in the U.S. House and is chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Ana Maria Archila is co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy. Cristina Jiménez is the executive director of United We Dream. Luis Miranda was an aide to President Barack Obama. Luis Miranda Jr. is board chair of the Latino Victory Fund and founding president of the Hispanic Federation. The above individuals circulated the letter and it is co-signed by 33 other Latino leaders listed at the bottom of the op-ed.
The deadly mass shooting in El Paso this past weekend was an attack on a U.S. city that many of us call home. It is also a city that has been one of the safest in the country for years, and it is now a city where there were almost as many murders Saturday morning as there were in all of last year. It is a city that is more than 80 percent Latino, including many immigrants. So let’s call Saturday’s heinous act of violence what it is: a carefully calculated and purposeful hate crime targeted at the Hispanic and immigrant community. It is an act of domestic terrorism.
Many will not want to hear or believe this: Hispanics in this country are under attack. Black and brown people in this country are under attack. Immigrants in this country are under attack. And President Trump is fanning the flames of hate, division and bigotry directed at us all — immigrants and U.S. citizens alike. Though the attack has been pervasive for many people in this country for years, it is becoming an epidemic that is quickly infecting more communities and posing a real threat to our country. The president is also providing cover for white nationalists, explicitly endorsing hate speech and tacitly endorsing violence.
We, along with dozens of Latino leaders, demand leadership from both political parties, call on them to stand with all people in our country and proudly acknowledge that the diversity of our country has been our greatest strength. Our leaders must have the courage to stand tall against this hate, not just in words, but also in actions that protect their fellow Americans.
We cannot excuse the vile behavior of Saturday’s shooter or gloss over the actions of others who have committed similar atrocities as just a sickness or mental health issue. This is hate and white nationalism, plain and simple, and it is fueled by irresponsible rhetoric. Unabashedly saying that Muslims should not be allowed in this country, warning people of invasions from Hispanics and immigrants (as cited in the suspect’s manifesto), encouraging chants of “send them back” and calling neo-Nazis and white supremacists “very fine people” are all examples of rhetoric that inspires hate and violence. We see the consequences in the stories of the victims and their families who mourn them, in the tears of those caring for the wounded.
A toxic combination of guns and hate is the problem. Keeping guns out of the hands of those who would perpetrate violence is an important part of the answer, and the Senate must immediately act to pass the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, update our laws and insist on regulations that meet the challenges of 21st-century America. Still, it is as important to address the root of the problem and stop the division, polarization and propagation of dehumanizing rhetoric that inspire these acts of hate. Washington, too, must act, and Congress must hold this administration accountable to ensure that groups promoting dangerous conspiracy theories and hate are designated as domestic terrorists. That includes the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, and other white supremacist and separatist idealists.
Domestic violent extremism perpetuated by white nationalists affects Americans from all backgrounds. On Saturday, it was a Latino community; not long ago it was a Jewish congregation worshiping at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Muslims at a mosque in California. African Americans at Bible study in Charleston, S.C. Our gun violence epidemic is further fueling hate crimes. Since the Sandy Hook massacre of 20 elementary school children in Newtown, Conn., in 2012 there have been 2,193 mass shootings, resulting in 2,478 deaths and more than 9,000 injuries, including tragically in Dayton, Ohio, just hours after El Paso. We are all connected, and we must speak out.
The administration should also publicly announce that it is suspending deportation and enforcement actions in areas affected by this violence so that victims can seek medical care and the support they need to recover regardless of immigration status.
We are standing up for the soul of this country. And we have a lot of healing to do. But we are at a critical crossroads: Are we going to continue to tolerate the slayings of our fellow citizens and human beings based on their religion, national origin or skin color? Are we going to allow ourselves to be divided and separated? We think we are better than that. We know we are better than that.
● Liz Alarcón, founder and director of Pulso
● Katherine Archuleta, director of the Office of Personnel Management from 2013 to 2015
● Ana Marie Argilagos, president of Hispanics in Philanthropy
● Geoconda Argüello-Kline, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Workers Union
● Sarah Audelo, executive director of the Alliance for Youth Action
● Luis Avila, founder of Iconico Campaigns
● Matt Barreto, co-founder of Latino Decisions
● Sindy Benavides, chief executive of the League of United Latin American Citizens
● José Calderón, president of the Hispanic Federation
● Yvanna Cancela, Democratic member of the Nevada state Senate
● Marco Davis, president of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute
● Sonja Diaz, founding executive director of the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative
● Edgar Flores, Democratic member of the Nevada State Assembly
● Lucy Flores, chief executive and co-founder of the Luz Collective
● Marisa Franco, director and co-founder of Mijente
● Jose P. Garza, executive director of the Workers Defense Project
● Tory Gavito, president and co-founder of Way to Win
● Dusti Gurule, executive director of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights
● María Teresa Kumar, president and chief executive of Voto Latino
● Grecia Lima, political director for Community Change Action
● Alfonso Lopez, Democratic member of the Virginia House of Delegates
● Marco A. Lopez Jr., former mayor of Nogales, Ariz.
● Carmen Lomellin, former U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States
● Mark Magaña, founding president and chief executive of GreenLatinos
● Robert Raben, president and founder of the Raben Group
● Rocio Sáenz, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union
● Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles
● Ken Salazar, U.S. interior secretary from 2009 to 2013, former Democratic U.S. senator from Colorado and former Colorado state attorney general
● Hector Sanchez, executive director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement
● Javier Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road New York
● Arturo Vargas, chief executive of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund
● Marcos Vilar, executive director of Alianza for Progress
● Eric Waldo, executive director of Reach Higher