People gather Aug. 15, 2019, at a makeshift memorial honoring victims of the mass shooting in El Paso. (Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
By Jef Rouner
When Patrick Crusius walked into an El Paso Walmart in August and murdered 22 people, eight of his victims were Mexican nationals. Before committing one of the deadliest mass shootings in Texas history, Crusius had written a manifesto.
The document, which would later be posted to the far-right message board 8chan, detailed Crusius’ desire to stop the “Hispanic invasion.” Crusius wasn’t alone in calling Hispanic immigrants “invaders.”
One day before the El Paso Massacre, Gov. Greg Abbot sent out a fundraising letter claiming the southern border was being swarmed with gang members and drug traffickers. President Donald Trump launched his campaign by accusing Mexico of sending the U.S. rapists and is currently using concentration camps to house border crossers.
It’s unclear how much Trump’s rhetoric influenced Crusius, but investigators with the Southern Poverty Law Center found a Twitter account with Crusius’ name that often tweeted statements by, and in support of, Trump.
The recent explosion of white supremacy has not gone unnoticed on the southern side of the Rio Grande. In the days after the El Paso shooting, Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard traveled to Texas to demand Crusius be extradited to Mexico to stand trial.
Although Crusius has not been extradited, and most likely never will be, Ebrard has not given up his quest to temper white supremacism in the U.S.
Before the end of the year, Ebrard plans to convene a summit of Spanish-speaking countries in Mexico City to address white supremacy attacks in the U.S. — attacks that are often accompanied by incendiary, racist rhetoric from officials in the U.S. government.
The anti-immigrant rhetoric stoking the recent resurgence of white supremacy has not been confined to attacks on Mexico or Mexicans. Refugees from a host of Latin American countries have been, and remain, a target of right-wing hate and rage.
The southern border specifically, and Texas in general, have long been a beacon for white supremacists. Going back to the 19th Century, Texas border militias hunted runaway slaves, Native Americans, Hispanic and Chinese immigrants, as well as other border-crossers — often fatally.
The long, bloody tradition of heavily armed, anti-immigrant paramilitary organizations continues to this day. In April 2019, the United Constitutional Patriots took it upon themselves to detain hundreds of asylum-seekers at gunpoint. In Facebook posts, the group boasted of “hunting” immigrants.
A few months later, the white nationalist group American Identity Movement — a rebranded Identity Evropa — claimed that it had held a ‘rally’ in Downtown Dallas. Although videos attributed to the group showed fewer than a dozen demonstrators chanting outside of the Meyerson Symphony Center.
Sadly, the low turnout at AIM/IE’s Dallas rally is no indication of Texas’ dissipating interest in white supremacy. The Lone Star State is home to a chapter of one of the most violent Internet-based white supremacy groups — Atomwaffen Division.
For approximately 18 months, the group was led by John Cameron Denton, a.k.a. ‘Rape,’ a Conroe-based white supremacist. Denton took over leadership of Atomwaffen after the group’s founder, Brandon Russell, was convicted of illegal possession of explosives.
Russell was allegedly planning an attack on the Turkey Point nuclear power plant near Miami using radioactive dirty bombs. During Denton’s tenure, Atomwaffen Division began to drift into hardcore Satanism, something which irritated the group’s members.
Denton was ousted in early 2019 over concerns about the misappropriation of funds. Despite losing leadership of Atomwaffen, Denton has remained a visible member of the Neo-Nazi underground, even attending a highly publicized white supremacist concert at the East Houston music venue Hellcat Cafe in April.
In a bizarre testament to Texas’ status as a cultural melting pot, anti-immigrant rhetoric has migrated from the state’s Anglo community to the Hispanic population. Earlier this year Houston hosted an event called Texans Against Communism, which was put on by Latinos for Trump.
The rally featured Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, the son of Cuban immigrants who grew up in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami. Tarrio read selections from Pat Buchanan’s The Death of the West, a 2001 screed that was roundly dismissed at the time of its publication.
Tarrio’s choice of reading materials further helped solidify the intellectual links between today’s alt-right and yesterday’s paleoconservatives. It’s no wonder that Crusius emerged out of this cesspool of hate-filled rhetoric dragging the worst ideologies from Gab, Youtube, and Discord to El Paso with him.
As much as the El Paso massacre was a sign of the spread of white supremacism, convincing people — particularly those in power — of the ideology’s infestation of the national and state consciousness remains difficult.
Although the agenda and policy proposals for Ebrard’s summit remain undefined, the fact that he has asked for the summit is itself a glimmer of hope. Perhaps efforts from the victims’ home countries can prevent another El Paso.
Edited by Alex Wukman