Texas Governor Greg Abbott is drawing fire after he referred to the victims of a mass shooting as "illegal immigrants."
On Monday, Abbott announced a $50,000 reward for the man who murdered five of his neighbors, including a 9-year-old boy, execution style with an AR-15. The prime suspect, Francisco Oropesa, was later detained.
\u201cI\u2019ve announced a $50K reward for info on the criminal who killed 5 illegal immigrants Friday. Also directed #OperationLoneStar to be on the lookout.\n\nI continue working with state & local officials to ensure all available resources are deployed to respond.\u201d— Greg Abbott (@Greg Abbott) 1682889323
In his announcement, Abbott referred to Oropesa as someone "who is in the country illegally and killed five illegal immigrants." Activists quickly decried his language, calling it "dehumanizing" and a "dog whistle."
“It’s below the dignity of the governor to impugn the victims of a mass shooting about their legal status," Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, told NBC. "All of the victims are Latino and so is the suspected gunman. This is a tragedy that involves another serial killing and a weapon for war that was used in the killing. That’s the issue, not the legal status of the victims."
While offensive, Abbott's remarks have also proven to be false. Renae Eze, spokesperson for the governor, said in a statement soon after that it was the federal government's fault for providing inaccurate information.
"We've since learned that at least one of the victims may have been in the United States legally," Eze said. "We regret if the information was incorrect and detracted from the important goal of finding and arresting the criminal."
Executive director of immigration advocacy group America’s Voice Vanessa Cárdenas added via NBC that "the only thing that should matter to the Governor” is that "another mass shooting killed innocent people."
“Shame on Governor Abbott for turning a horrific family and community tragedy into another in his relentless effort to dehumanize immigrants and demonize immigration," she said. "Not only is it an obscene distraction that compounds one family’s grief, but of all people, Greg Abbott should understand the power of words and the responsibility of his public rhetoric.”