Where impeached Donald Trump president used his authoritarian speech to continue his lies and demonization, Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar, delivering the Spanish-language Democratic rebuttal to his State of the Union political rally, used her address to shine a light on the issues, tragedies, and state-sanctioned humanitarian crises he refused to mention Tuesday night.
Escobar spoke from Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe in El Paso—a peaceful border community bruised but not broken by tragedy last year. She discussed how the president’s rhetoric helped inspire the white supremacist terrorism that took 22 lives there, the unprecedented deaths of migrant children in immigration custody, and attacks on families, including the family separation policy and ongoing efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“On August 3rd of last year, El Paso suffered from the deadliest targeted attack against Latinos in American history,” Escobar said. “A domestic terrorist confessed to driving over 10 hours to target Mexicans and immigrants. Just before he began his killing spree, he posted his views online and used hateful language like the very words used by President Trump to describe immigrants and Latinos. That day, the killer took 22 innocent lives, injured dozens, and broke all of our hearts.”
The rhetoric used by the white supremacist terrorist has been used by the president at his rallies and in campaign ads countless times, but an unapologetic Trump not only refused to stop this, but also shamelessly invited Escobar to tour the city with him as his human prop. “I declined the invitation because I refuse to be an accessory to his visit,” she said at the time. “I refuse to join without a dialogue about the pain his racist and hateful words and actions have caused our community and country.”
”Democrats understand that this is a matter of life and death,” she said during Tuesday’s speech. “From attacks against Dreamers, family separation, the deaths of migrant children, to the Remain in Mexico policy that sends asylum seekers into dangerous situations. These are policies none of us ever imagined would happen in America in our lifetime.” On DACA, Trump is hoping the Supreme Court finishes his dirty work for him and issues a decision this year that ends the successful and popular program. On family separation, a recent tally found that officials stole nearly 5,500 children from their families since 2017.
Poor detention standards have contributed to the deaths of people from vulnerable populations, like transgender asylum-seekers and at least seven children, including 16-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernández Vásquez, who died in a Border Patrol cell last year. Carlos was not alone (his cellmate was asleep but later discovered his body) but died by himself and in neglect in part from the flu. Surveillance video released by ProPublica shows that border officials lied about the circumstances around his death.
Escobar last year introduced legislation that would end the inhumane and illegal Remain in Mexico policy, which has now resulted in roughly 60,000 asylum-seekers being sent to wait out their U.S. immigration court cases in regions of Mexico that the U.S. State Department tells Americans to avoid. Calling it “the largest assault to due process,” a number of former immigration judges have recently called on the administration to immediately terminate the program.
But where Trump also caters solely to his base and disregards the humanity and patriotism of everyone else, Escobar urged all Americans to stand for what’s right. “I remember seeing the Statue of Liberty from Ellis Island for the first time,” she said. “I was in awe of Lady Liberty. She stands as the guardian of our ideals—that all people are created equal, that the vulnerable are to be cared for and not shunned, and that America is the shining example of goodness.”
”It is up to all of us—in the face of one of the most challenging times in history—to reflect the dignity, grace of Lady Liberty and the values of America,” she said. Read the full speech in English here, or watch in Spanish below.