El Paso shooting

President Trump is in El Paso today. The local congresswoman won’t meet with him.

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar has said that Trump’s divisive rhetoric is in part to blame for a mass shooting that officials have deemed an act of domestic terrorism.

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, speaks to the media before a march at Houston Park in El Paso on August 4, 2019.
U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, speaks to the media before a march at Houston Park in El Paso on August 4, 2019.  Michael Chow/The Republic via USA TODAY NETWORK/REUTERS

More than 20 people were killed in an Aug. 3, 2019, shooting rampage at a Walmart in El Paso. The gunman was arrested and charged with capital murder for the shooting in El Paso, which is recovering from what federal law enforcement has classified as an act of domestic terrorism. 

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El Paso Democrats have been upfront about their wariness toward President Donald Trump’s visit to their city. For at least one lawmaker, that mistrust turned to outright opposition.

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, whose district encompasses the Walmart where 22 people were fatally shot and dozens more were injured, announced Tuesday that she declined a White House invitation to join Trump in El Paso — linking Trump’s rhetoric toward Mexicans and immigrants to that of the shooter’s.

“I declined the invitation to accompany the President because I refuse to be an accessory to his visit,” Escobar wrote on Facebook. “I refuse to join without a true dialogue about the pain his racist and hateful words and actions have caused our community and this country.”

“The domestic terrorist who came to El Paso to kill innocent people had his sights set on Hispanics and immigrants,” she added. “He took 22 lives, injured more than two dozen.”

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Escobar’s refusal to accompany the president through her district is not surprising given that she said Monday she didn’t think Trump should come to El Paso — comments she later doubled down on in an interview Tuesday with CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

Her latest scathing rebuke, however, represents a larger trend of officials who are publicly opposed to Trump visiting the sites of two back-to-back mass shootings this weekend — one in El Paso and the second in Dayton, Ohio, where a gunman killed nine people in the city’s entertainment district.

Several prominent officials and politicians, including Escobar and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, have cited Trump’s divisive rhetoric for inspiring what officials have deemed an act of domestic terrorism. Authorities are investigating a hate-filled manifesto, allegedly authored by the shooter in El Paso, warning of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas” along with other racist and xenophobic language.

“22 people in my hometown are dead after an act of terror inspired by your racism. El Paso will not be quiet and neither will I,” O’Rourke tweeted to Trump Tuesday night.

In Facebook and through a series of tweets, Escobar wrote that she requested a phone call with Trump “to share what I have now heard from many constituents, including some who are victims of Saturday’s attack.” She said she was told Trump was “too busy” to talk.

“I have publicly said he has a responsibility to acknowledge the power of his words, apologize for them, and take them back because they are still hanging over us,” she wrote. “I asked for a call so I could say this to him over the phone and ask for a dialogue that could lead to healing.”

Instead of meeting with Trump, Escobar and O’Rourke have both said they plan to attend a community event being held “to honor those lives lost, confront President Trump and white supremacy, and demand responsible gun control.”

Still, not every El Paso official is staunchly opposed to the president’s visit. State Sen. José Rodríguez, a Democrat, said Tuesday that he’s open to a “constructive dialogue on how the federal government can help the victims, families and our community heal.” El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, meanwhile, previously said he would welcome the president in an “official capacity” which he called his “formal duty.”

“He is president of the United States,” said Margo, a former Republican state legislator. “So in that capacity I will fulfill my obligation to meet with him.”