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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott referred to mass shooting victims as 'illegal immigrants'

Five people in a Texas town, including a 9-year-old boy, were shot to death in their home by a neighbor with an AR-15 on Friday.

By Emily Singer - May 01, 2023
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a press conference
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a press conference concerning border security along the Texas border with Mexico at the Weslaco DPS Headquarters on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023, in Weslaco, Texas. (Joel Martinez/The Monitor via AP)

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott politicized the deaths of victims of yet another mass shooting in his state, calling the five people who were shot inside a home in San Jacinto County on Friday night “illegal immigrants.”

“I’ve announced a $50K reward for info on the criminal who killed 5 illegal immigrants Friday,” Abbott tweeted on Sunday, two days after a gunman shot the victims with a semiautomatic rifle inside a home in Cleveland, Texas.

According to CBS affiliate KHOU, the five victims were shot by a neighbor who was angry that they had asked him to stop shooting weapons on his property. The suspect, 38-year-old Francisco Oropeza, is still at large, according to San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers.

Abbott’s tweet Sunday was the first comment he made about the murders.

Democratic lawmakers slammed Abbott’s mention of the purported immigration status of the five victims, one of whom was a 9-year-old boy. Their immigration status, according to the Guardian, had not been confirmed as of Monday.

“Five human beings lost their lives and Greg Abbott insists on labeling them ‘illegal immigrants,'” former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro tweeted.

“A new low for @GregAbbott_TX, who continues to do nothing to keep #Texas safe from #GunViolence. Greg, how was an undocumented person able to obtain an AR-15 in the first place? I’ll tell you why. It’s because you and other Republicans have made safe gun laws nonexistent,” Texas state Sen. Roland Guiterrez tweeted.

Abbott is vehemently opposed to any gun safety measures in the state.

Following the mass shooting on May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year-old gunman used an AR-15-style weapon to murder 19 students and two teachers in an elementary school, parents of the victims and other gun safety advocates called for Texas to raise the age to buy a semiautomatic rifle in the state from 18 to 21. Abbott opposed that proposal, calling it “unconstitutional.”

In 2021, Abbott signed seven bills that weakened gun laws in the state, including one new law that allows people in Texas to carry handguns without a license.

According to the gun violence prevention organization Everytown for Gun Safety, these “permitless carry” laws, which let people carry firearms without having to go through a background check or safety training, “allow carry by irresponsible and dangerous people.”

“Emerging data shows that states that have passed permitless carry legislation are experiencing a substantial increase in gun violence,” Everytown said. “States that have weakened or eliminated law enforcement authority to deny permits to people who pose a danger have experienced an 11% increase in handgun homicide rates and a 13-15% increase in violent crime rates.”

This is not the first time Abbott has been criticized for his treatment of immigrants.

In December, when Abbott was busing migrants from Texas to Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence in Washington, D.C., during sub-freezing temperatures without any winter-weather gear, the White House accused him of carrying out a “cruel, dangerous, and shameful stunt.”

“Greg Abbot’s [sic] hatred for immigrants and love of AR-15s far outweigh his humanity,” Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) tweeted on Sunday.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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