Border leaders stand united against hate on anniversary of mass shooting

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Memorial plaque unveiled at Mexican consulte in El Paso, where officials from U.S. and Mexico emphasize bicultural, bilingual heritage of region

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Regional leaders on Monday paid tribute to the 23 victims of the Aug. 3, 2019, El Paso mass shooting with a message of unity against hate and racism.

And, as if in defiance of the alleged murderer’s animosity toward Mexicans and his perceived “Hispanic invasion” of Texas, all but one of the speakers at the tribute to the victims delivered their messages in Spanish.

“I am certain that if (the killer) would have gotten to know us, learn who we are, I don’t think he would have been capable of (the act),” El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said at Monday’s unveiling of a plaque with the names of the 23 alleged victims of Patrick Wood Crusius.

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, from left, Bishop Mark J. Seitz, Juarez Mayor Armando Cabada, Mexican Consul General Mauricio Ibarra Ponce de Leon and Mexican Foreign Ministry Director for North America Roberto Velasco stand next to a plaque outside the consulate honoring the victims of the Aug. 3, 2019, mass shooting at the Cielo Vista Walmart. (Courtesy Mexican consulate)

The shooting happened a year ago at the Walmart near Cielo Vista Mall. Crusius allegedly walked into the store with an AK-47 style rifle after posting an online manifesto rambling against Mexicans and Hispanics.

The bronze plaque is set on a black stand at the entrance of the Mexican consulate in El Paso. Nine of the 23 people killed were from Mexico, although some also were naturalized U.S. citizens.

The plaque at the Mexican consulate. (photo by Julian Resendiz/Border Report)

With both the American and Mexican flags in the background, Samaniego and others denounced the anti-immigrant rhetoric that some say inspired the shooter.

“It’s regrettable that the stereotypes being promoted by politicians many times bring us trouble,” Samaniego said. “I hope you (the families of the victims) heal and become an example of who we are as Hispanics, as Mexicans, that you can take adversity and make the best of it.”

Also speaking in Spanish, U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, promised the relatives she would stand up for their rights regardless of citizenship.

“We still have a lot of hate and racism in our country. We have a lot of work to do,” Escobar said. “I will always be with you in the fight for dignity for all, be it a U.S. citizen or Mexican, immigrant or citizen is not important. We are all brothers and deserve the dignity and respect due to every human being.”

Juarez Mayor Armando Cabada also referenced the anti-immigrant rhetoric that preceded the shooting. Organizations like the Border Network for Human Rights have blamed President Trump for inspiring Crusius.

“Sometimes we don’t value the power of our words and their impact on other people. That’s why we must be careful they (don’t become) a vehicle for the spread of hate and intolerance,” Cabada said. “Nothing hurts more than (to see) innocent lives lost because one person decided they had no worth.”

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, the only speaker to address the ceremony in English, said the massacre neither defines the city nor makes its residents cower.

“El Paso and Juarez have a history dating back 350 years. We are a binational, bicultural, and bilingual region. We have family, commerce and culture on both sides of the border,” Margo said. “We are a people of faith and we will not fear. We will remember and honor those we have lost and we will stand united and proud of our shared heritage.”

The Mexican government has been following the legal process against Crusius in the United States. Crusius faces federal and state charges for the killings and the injuries that another 23 people sustained on Aug. 3.

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo speaks at Monday’s ceremony. (photo by Julian Resendiz)

Roberto Velasco, North American director for the Mexican Foreign Ministry, said his government has been informed that the shooter’s trial could come as early as October.

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