I am so proud of my hometown of El Paso. Always have been.
I tell our story wherever I go. This place of immigrants, of people from all over the planet, who came here to do better for themselves and to do better for this country. I tell people about how we are one of the safest cities in the United States. Nearly 700,000 people and we’ve averaged only 18 murders a year.
And I make sure that people know that those two things are connected. It is the very presence of immigrants and asylum seekers and refugees that has made us so safe. We don’t just tolerate our differences, we embrace them. We treat each other with the dignity and respect we are owed as human beings. It is the foundation of our success and our safety.
I’ve always thought the example set by El Paso could offer a path forward for a country that is so consumed by our differences and our divisions.
Si queremos asegurar nuestro país, I often say, necesitamos seguir el ejemplo de El Paso.
But on Saturday, we realized that we can take no comfort in our safety, in our ability to see the best in each other by seeing ourselves in one another. That, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”
Though El Paso is a safe community, we are part of a country that is violent. A country that has failed to adopt laws that would allow us to perform a background check on everyone who wants to own a firearm. One that still allows weapons designed for war to be sold into our communities. We lost 40,000 of our fellow Americans to gun violence last year — inexplicable but for the stranglehold that the gun lobby has on Congress and the White House, and the fear that our elected representatives have of the NRA.
And though we are a city that prides itself as a home of immigrants, we live in America at a moment that the President seeks to make us afraid of immigrants, to see them as animals and rapists and killers, a threat to our very lives. An invasion that must be stopped. An infestation that must be stamped out.
At a rally in Florida in May, President Trump asked how America could stop immigrants from coming into the country.
“Shoot them!” someone yelled back.
As the crowd roared their approval, the President smiled.
That violence, that hatred, that fear found us on Saturday. Drove more than 600 miles to a community that is 85% Mexican-American. A community of first- and second-generation immigrants. It walked into one of the busiest Walmarts in the country, full of families from El Paso and our sister city of Ciudad Juárez and killed 22 people. A 90-year old man shot dead next to the wife he’d been married to for 70 years. A 15 year old boy about to start his sophomore year in high school. Young parents, both of them murdered, as they shielded their 2-month old son.
Death and suffering. Pain and devastation. Families grieving an indescribable loss.
But this terrorist, echoing the words of Donald Trump and hosts on Fox News in his manifesto, will fail to achieve his aims of stopping America from being America. A country of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees. A country which 243 years ago chose to define itself not along lines of race or ethnicity but instead on the principle that we are all created equal.
This hatred and violence won’t define us. The people I’ve met at University Medical Center and Del Sol Hospital, shot in the chest, in the stomach, in the back, in the leg, in the arm, in the foot, all of them meeting their pain with courage will do that. All of them recovering as they receive the care and help they need from their fellow El Pasoans. Lines around the block at blood donation centers. Vigils of thousands throughout the community, in Central El Paso, on the eastside, and over in Horizon.
Though on Saturday, El Paso bore the brunt of the hatred and violence in this country, I believe our community also holds some of the answers. Not just to our pain and challenges, but to those of the country.
Because we now know first hand that no physical distance, no set of circumstances unique to your community, can separate you from what is happening to all of us in this country. We are all in this together. Unless we make it harder for people to kill, unless we stop this racism and fear, unless we stop seeing our differences as dangerous, unless we hold those in the highest positions of public trust accountable — this violence will find every one of us, sooner or later.
It is on all of us to stand up and be counted, especially when we feel the consequences of America at its worst, to fight for this country to be its best.
That is the spirit of El Paso, a city where everyone belongs. And the hope I have for America is that we become a country like that too.