Ethnic Cleansing in El Paso, Texas is a Warning for the Nation

"El Paso needs to show other communities in America how to respond to ethnic cleansing motivated by a hatred and fear of Latinos."

President Trump owes our border community and all Latinos in America an apology for encouraging ethnic cleansing. He must take back his hate-filled words toward Mexicans, immigrants and asylum seekers so that we can heal from the violence that he has triggered.

The President has promoted animosity towards Mexicans since the launch of his presidential campaign, and he has catalyzed the mistreatment of immigrants and refugees from anywhere south of his proposed border wall since then. Across his campaign rallies and throughout his online rants, his rhetoric has resonated with a generation of homegrown racists who are now emboldened to the point where they are willing to commit a form of ethnic cleansing by murdering people who look or sound like they are from the U.S.-Mexico border.

This type of crisis is one that I hope no other community in America has to encounter. El Paso is not just a news story, it is a warning that your community could be the next victim of a horrific and deliberate act of domestic terrorism that strategically targets clusters of innocent Latino families regardless of their citizenship status.

When the news broke of the active shooter incident, I headed straight to the family reunification center at the nearby school and what I encountered will forever be burned into my memory. I was identifying the signs of fear on the faces of families looking for loved ones. I heard unremitting weeping as many waited for hours fearing the worst news. Some left the center with visible signs of relief, and others remained inconsolable for days to come.

However, there remained a determined faction that simply continued to terrorize El Pasoans by camping outside of safe havens for refugees with their guns and interrupting vigils for our lost loved ones while flaunting their MAGA hats and other signs of hate. El Paso has become ground zero in a new war of hate while remaining a beacon on the border as a primary gateway to achieve the American Dream. This is where international neighbors, transnational asylum seekers, and longstanding residents of all backgrounds are colliding with racist outsiders who mean to cause harm and provoke fear.

As the news of President Trump’s visit was announced, a petition circulated on-line and it generated more than 23,000 signatures asking the President not to come. Most of those people believe his words over the last few years incited these murders. Demonstrations against President Trump and calls for action requesting an apology from the President also began to surface immediately, and the majority of El Paso’s elected officials spoke out against his visit as well as the weaponization of his rhetoric.

His visit was brief and overtly politicized. Then he diverted blame away from his inflammatory rhetoric and proceeded to terrorize immigrant workers and their children on the other side of the country to draw attention away from the massacre in El Paso.

El Paso is already fading from the news while many residents are still hysterical. The entire community continue to struggle with the trauma of comprehending the motivations and aftermath of the massacre at Walmart. El Pasoans now live in fear of doing everyday tasks like shopping or taking their children to school because we now feel targeted.

Despite all the chaos that ensued leading up to the visit from the President, this city remains unbroken. I am so proud of El Paso. The way we have stood up to adversity is by lifting each other up. We have shown the rest of Texas and the nation the definition of resiliency. Now El Paso needs to show other communities in America how to respond to ethnic cleansing motivated by a hatred and fear of Latinos.

Prior to this massacre, I had never reached out to the communities who have been shattered by mass shootings. Their communities, like ours, cannot be forgotten. It would be a betrayal to the 22 lives we have lost if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again.

Cassandra Hernandez, a proud Latina, was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and now serves as the youngest member of the El Paso city council, she had served her district for over two years when the mass shooting occurred on August 3, 2019.

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