EL PASO, Texas (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s expected visit to the Texas border city of El Paso days after a gun massacre that left 22 dead drew mixed reactions on Tuesday from residents of this heavily Hispanic liberal enclave. The president’s anti-immigrant rhetoric has alienated many in El Paso, which is on the frontlines
EL PASO, Texas (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s expected visit to the Texas border city of El Paso days after a gun massacre that left 22 dead drew mixed reactions on Tuesday from residents of this heavily Hispanic liberal enclave.
The president’s anti-immigrant rhetoric has alienated many in El Paso, which is on the frontlines of the Trump administration’s campaign to staunch the flow of migrants over the U.S.-Mexican border, but the city’s mayor and some residents said they would welcome the president.
Trump was expected to travel to El Paso on Wednesday, although the White House has not confirmed the date.
El Paso has been reeling in the aftermath of Saturday’s rampage at a crowded Walmart store, an attack believed to have been racially motivated against Hispanics.
Word that Trump was planning to travel to El Paso angered left-lending activists who gathered for a vigil for the victims on Monday evening. Some partly blamed the president for the bloodshed.
“He’s complicit in this violence and all the terror that we’re seeing,” Rachel Cheek, 26, one activist, told Reuters.
But El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, a Republican who holds a nonpartisan office, said on Monday that he supported Trump’s visit.
“This is not a political visit,” Margo said. “He is president of the United States. So, in that capacity, I will fulfill my obligations as mayor of El Paso to meet with the president and discuss whatever our needs are in this community.”
Asked to confirm whether Trump would travel on Wednesday to El Paso and Dayton, Ohio – site of a second mass shooting over the weekend – White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said he wanted to visit but did not confirm the trip.
“The president has wanted to go to there since we learned of those tragedies,” she told reporters at the White House Tuesday morning.
Trump on Monday said that Americans must “condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy.” He proposed tighter monitoring of the internet, mental health reform and wider use of the death penalty following the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, where nine people were killed.
James Peinado, a Latino and leader of the local chapter of the gun rights group Open Carry Texas, said he found Trump’s visit “extremely appropriate,” though he hoped Trump might use the occasion to use more diplomatic language while El Paso is grieving.
“Let’s put politics aside because we all need to come together,” Peinado said.
But some in El Paso had harsh views of Trump.
At the vigil Monday evening at Casa Carmelita, a sanctuary for migrants and community space, people spoke of their anger toward the president, mentioning his deployment of military troops to the border, the turning away of asylum-seekers and the separation of children from their families.
“Then there’s Trump. Before, these things were hidden. The white supremacy. The violence against minorities,” said Ana Morales.
In regard to Trump’s visit, the 34-year-old Morales said, “How could he have the audacity?”
LENGTHY ANTI-IMMIGRANT MANIFESTO
The suspected El Paso shooter, Patrick Crusius, 21, faces a single count of capital murder. Authorities say he opened fire with a rifle on Walmart shoppers, many of them bargain hunting for back-to-school supplies. The suspect then surrendered to officers who confronted him outside the store.
A Texas prosecutor said the state will seek the death penalty against Crusius if he is convicted.
Crusius made an initial court appearance early Sunday, and San Antonio attorney Mark Stevens has been appointed to the case by the court, online court records showed.
Calls to the El Paso court, state prosecutors and the defense attorney were not immediately returned.
Authorities have cited a lengthy anti-immigrant manifesto, apparently posted online by the suspect before the Saturday morning shooting. Eight of those killed were Mexican citizens, according to the Mexican government.
The four-page statement uploaded to 8chan, a largely unmoderated online message board often used by extremists, called the Walmart attack “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
Two South American countries — Uruguay and Venezuela — have issued travel warnings for its citizens to take precautions amid any travel to the United States amid growing violence and hate crimes, particularly in some U.S. cities.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Saturday’s rampage appeared to be a hate crime. Federal prosecutors called it domestic terrorism.
Several hundred classmates, teachers and relatives filled a high school football stadium in the El Paso suburb of Horizon on Monday for a memorial service to honor Javier Rodriguez, a 15-year-old with U.S.-Mexican citizenship who was the youngest victim killed in the rampage.
“Apparently, Javier was a target because of the color of his skin. Javier did not choose the color of his skin, nor did I, nor did you,” Juan Martinez, superintendent of the Clint Independent School District outside El Paso, told the crowd.
Reporting by Julio-Cesar Chavez and Daniel Trotta in El Paso; additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Leslie Adler