President Trump is set to visit the border city of El Paso on Wednesday, following the shooting that killed at least 22 people and is being deemed an act of domestic terrorism. But Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Tex.), whose district includes the El Paso Walmart and shopping center where the shooting occurred, won’t be greeting the president.
“I declined the invitation to accompany the President because I refuse to be an accessory to his visit,” the Democratic lawmaker wrote in posts shared to Facebook and Twitter. “I refuse to join without a true dialogue about the pain his racist and hateful words and actions have caused our community and this country.”
The scathing message is yet another signal that Trump will not be warmly received by all during his Wednesday trips to El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, where another gunman killed nine people early Sunday. In the aftermath of the back-to-back attacks, critics have called out Trump for his inflammatory rhetoric on immigrants, which was echoed by the El Paso shooter. The president also drew backlash for failing to address gun control in his Monday response to the shootings. Ahead of Trump’s planned appearances in the two cities, people have signed petitions and organized protests and demonstrations, making it clear that he is not welcome in their communities.
On Tuesday, Escobar, who has repeatedly linked Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric to the El Paso shooting, wrote that she had asked to speak with the president over the phone before his visit to “share what I have now heard from many constituents, including some who are victims of Saturday’s attack.” But the request was not met, the congresswoman said.
“I have publicly said he has a responsibility to acknowledge the power of his words, apologize for them, and take them back because they are still hanging over us,” Escobar wrote. “I asked for a call so I could say this to him over the phone and ask for a dialogue that could lead to healing.”
She continued: “I was told that he is ‘too busy’ to have that conversation.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment late Tuesday.
Instead of meeting with Trump, Escobar wrote that she plans to spend time “with fellow El Pasoans who are dealing with the pain and horror left in the wake of this act of domestic terrorism fueled by hate and racism.” The freshman representative noted that she would be attending a demonstration on Wednesday that intends to “honor those lives lost, confront President Trump and white supremacy, and demand responsible gun control,” according to a description on Facebook. Late Tuesday, former Texas congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke announced that he would also attend that event. Escobar won O’Rourke’s seat in Congress last fall.
Not everyone in El Paso, however, is staunchly against Trump’s trip, The Washington Post’s John Wagner reported.
El Paso Mayor Dee Margo (R) stressed during a news conference Monday that his office was welcoming the “Office of the President of the United States” in an “official capacity,” which he said he considered his “formal duty."
Margo said he would ask Trump to support the city “with any and all federal resources that are available,” but noted that “harmful and inaccurate statements made about El Paso” would be challenged.
“We will not allow anyone to portray El Paso in a way that is not consistent with our history and values,” he said.
Adolpho Telles, chairman of the El Paso County Republican Party, said on CNN that the visit would “clearly ... help people with healing, and this is a time of healing.”
Escobar’s refusal to accompany Trump in El Paso is not surprising given that she had urged him not to come.
“From my perspective, he is not welcome here,” she said during a Monday appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “He should not come here while we are in mourning.”
On Tuesday, Escobar doubled down on her message to Trump in an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, once again calling for the president to recognize the impact of his words and take corrective action. Officials in El Paso believe the gunman posted a manifesto in which he called his attack “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” parroting language Trump has used in the past to talk about migrants and the southern border.
“He painted a target on our back,” Escobar said of Trump. “He put the target on our back. He needs to peel it off.”
She added: “As the most powerful voice in the country, he needs to stand up and say, ‘I was wrong, those words are wrong and every one of these people is worthy and equal of our admiration and of grace and of our compassion. They are no different regardless of the color of their skin and I was wrong to make them different.’”
During the interview with Cuomo, Escobar stood firm in her decision to forego meeting with Trump.