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O’Rourke blames ‘hateful rhetoric’ for anti-immigrant violence during gubernatorial debate with Abbott

Asylum-seeking migrants, mostly from Venezuela cross the Rio Bravo river in Ciudad Juarez
Asylum-seeking migrants, mostly from Venezuela, are seen after crossing the Rio Bravo river to turn themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol agents to request asylum in El Paso, Texas, U.S., as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, September 17, 2022. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Days after a former warden was arrested in connection with a migrant’s murder in Hudspeth County, West Texas, Beto O’Rourke on Friday blamed “hateful rhetoric” for an increase in violence in the state.

During the only gubernatorial debate slated before the election, the candidate associated political speech with violence against migrants and far-right incidents of mass violence.

“This hateful rhetoric, this treating human beings as political pawns, talking about invasions and Texans defending themselves–that's how people get killed at the Walmart in El Paso,” said O’Rourke during the debate in the Rio Grande Valley. “The gentleman in Hudspeth that we just learned about yesterday — this is incredibly dangerous for Texas, and it's not reflective of our values.”

Days after a former warden was arrested in connection with a migrant murder, O'Rourke blamed "hateful rhetoric" for increases in violence at the debate in the Rio Grande Valley.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s border security mission, Operation Lone Star, has long been the source of rhetoric portraying the Texas-Mexico border as suffering from an extreme immigration crisis, which Abbott has often described as an “invasion.”

As the candidates arrived in the region for the debate on Friday, some local voters who gathered at the day’s events disagreed with that portrayal.

Kim Davis, a voter from McAllen, said she feels the portrait of the border region painted by the election cycle is not an honest representation of where she’s lived for most of her life.

"It's not what the news, and especially Fox [News], shows at the border. It’s not like that,” she said. “Yes, we have violence. ... But it's nothing like what they say. It's perfectly safe. It's not like the cartels are running across the border selling the drugs shooting us. It's nothing like that. So I mean, all that was misinformation."

In response to O’Rourke’s comments, Abbott repeated a claim that the city of El Paso is busing migrants across state lines in maneuvers similar to those employed by Operation Lone Star.

Governor Greg Abbott and Beto O'Rourke at the gubernatorial debate in the Rio Grande Valley
Governor Greg Abbott and Beto O'Rourke at the gubernatorial debate in the Rio Grande Valley

“It’s clear that Beto just wants to perpetuate the open border policies and mischaracterize exactly what's going on,” he said. “He refuses to acknowledge that the city of El Paso — because they are so overwhelmed by Joe Biden's open border policies — they too are having to bus migrants out of their communities because they have no way of keeping them there.”

El Paso is working with FEMA and faith-based groups in cities in the U.S. to relocate a select group of migrants who need assistance.

Abbott’s project is using taxpayer money to send migrants to New York City and Washington D.C.

More than 800 migrants died on the U.S.-Mexico border in the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

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Pablo De La Rosa is a Northern Tamaulipas-Rio Grande Valley native where he works as a writer and multimedia producer of stories from the Texas-Mexico border region.