Another mass shooting, a car plowing into migrants, and end of Title 42 brings on difficult week for Latinos
Two mass tragedies occurred over the course over the weekend that left over 16 dead and dozens injured, with Title 42 also set to expire on Thursday, May 11.
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In what was a tragic-filled weekend once more, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, in what is customary fashion now, offered the habitual thoughts and prayers to yet again, families and friends of at least eight victims of another mass shooting at the Allen Premium Outlets in Allen, Texas on Saturday, May 6.
It was a busy shopping day for many residents of Allen, a town just 25 miles north of Dallas, when Mauricio Garcia, 33, of Dallas — identified by the Texas Department of Public Safety — began firing his AR-15 style rifle around 3:30 p.m. as soon as he exited his vehicle in the parking lot.
Still not classified as an act of domestic terrorism, Garcia killed eight, including children. He also shot and killed a police officer — who’s yet to be identified — before being killed by another policeman.
To further aggravate the already grief-stricken state, especially immediately following a shooting in Cleveland, Texas the weekend prior that left five dead, a Range Rover barrelled into a crowd of migrants near a bus stop outside the Ozanam Center in Brownsville, Texas on Sunday, May 7, that killed at least eight, and left over 10 injured.
The driver, identified by Brownsville Police Chief Felix Sauceda as George Alvarez on Monday, plowed his large SUV into a crowd of what is believed to be Venezuelan migrants, outside the homeless center around 8:30 a.m. that morning. Seven of the migrants died on the spot, according to Martin Sandoval, an investigator with the Brownsville Police Department.
Alvarez, who’s being treated for injuries, has been charged with reckless driving with added charges to be expected in the coming days. A toxicology report is still pending to determine the intention of his actions.
According to one of the witnesses involved in stopping the driver and who spoke to the New York Times, he revealed the driver hurled anti-immigration rhetoric as he attempted to flee.
Alvarez has proven to be difficult as of publication. He spoke to investigators in both English and Spanish, gave police different names and did not submit to a breathalyzer test or provide his fingerprints, according to Sauceda.
Authorities are now determining how fast the vehicle was going and whether the mass tragedy was intentional. Brownsville is one of several Texas border towns that sees high border crossing, and sits in one of the state’s poorest regions.
Even with the over dozen mass shootings in recent years, including the tragedy at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde; a racist attack at an El Paso Walmart in 2019; and a gunman opening fire at a church in the town of Sutherland Springs in 2017, Abbott and the state’s Republican lawmakers in Austin — who control both statewide offices and legislative chambers — have done little to nothing in regards to tightening gun measures.
Do not expect anything to change this time.
Even with the increase of gun violence in the state in recent years, Texas has actually increased access to firearms. They no longer abide by permit requirements regarding who can carry handguns and lowered the age when adults can carry handguns to 18 from 21.
During an interview with Fox News on Sunday, Abbott commented on his state’s recent tragic events where he, conservatively, did not acknowledge what many consider to be the real root of the problem — stricter gun legislation — but instead emphasized the imperativeness of mental health prioritization, specifically the “anger and violence,” in a part of the state and increased prayer.
“What Texas is doing in a big-time way, we are working to address that anger and violence but going to its root cause, which is addressing the mental health problems behind it,” Abbott said during an interview on Fox News Sunday.
Abbott also called for increased and harsher penalties for laws “to get guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals and to increase penalties for criminals who possess guns.”
Opponents who have gone against the idea of treating gun violence largely as a public health issue have cited that the U.S. neither has sufficient mental health professionals, mental health facilities or funding for either mass screening or treatment.
This comes as Abbott said he’s added “almost $25 billion to address mental health” in recent years and looks to add more for the state’s many rural communities and for students.
“People want a quick solution. The long-term solution here is to address the mental health issue,” said the governor who also cited mass shootings in states with different levels of gun control.
Abbott was one of thousands of mourners at the vigil held at Cottonwood Creek Church Sunday evening to honor the eight victims killed in Allen, TX. Many attended to remember the deceased while others used it as a chance to call out their lawmakers, including Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.
The vigil was interrupted on two separate occasions due to protestors who as a result had to be escorted out by police outside the church, where they were met with more resistance by a peaceful group demanding gun reform laws.
The governor’s lack of action on gun reform even prompted the editorial board at the Dallas Morning News — who recommended Abbott for Governor during last year’s midterm elections — to call out Abbott for not addressing the true cause of the matter.
“There is nothing conservative about refusing to acknowledge evidence or give voice to the true nature of a problem. The people who are dead today are not dead because a twisted and evil soul walked among them,” the editors wrote.
“They are dead because that person was able to obtain a weapon so powerful and with such high capacity that even the bravest and fastest response of law enforcement could not save their lives.”
House GOP to vote on immigration package on same day Title 42 set to end
The state — and country — are also expecting a huge influx of migrants this week, with hundreds of thousands to attempt to make their way across the southern U.S. and Mexico border as former President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 and immigration policy, Title 42, is set to expire this upcoming Thursday, May 11.
The controversial political policy disguised as a medical issue — that declines most asylum seekers under health guidelines — has gone through significant legal challenges in the time since its inception in the early throes of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020; 16 challenges since Mar. 2020.
The Biden Administration, going back as far as last year, have emphasized their readiness and preparedness for the end of Title 42. Some of the President’s strategies include more legal pathways for migrants to enter the U.S. without having to go through the sometimes fatal journey to the border, setting up centers where migrants can apply to emigrate, and a humanitarian parole process currently in place with 30,000 slots a month for people from four countries to come to the U.S.
Appointments available through the CBP One app are expected to add and expand their appointment log, following much criticism of the app, concerning technological problems and appointment unavailability on a consistent basis.
Several GOP-led states, including Texas, have legally challenged Biden’s efforts to repeal the policy once and for all, but a court-ordered lift is what’ll ultimately remove it this upcoming Thursday, the same day House Republicans are expected to vote on a sweeping border security package.
The bill known as HR 2, would codify a few of the border programs implemented by Trump, including the “Remain in Mexico” policy, which mandated that migrants stay in Mexico while going through the asylum process.
The bill also offers increased resources into security at the southern border including more bodies, border wall construction, and upgraded border technology.
HR 2 is not expected to pass through the Democrat-controlled Senate.