El Paso was still counting the dead as I wrote this. They are up to 22. You may have read that the shooter posted a racist, anti-immigrant rant of his intentions. If not, just pull up any Donald Trump rally and you’ll see the same racist lines from the president himself. No amount of carefully crafted words can erase the connection.
But you should know that Trump is not alone.
The racist, anti-immigrant words the shooter wrote can also be found on Border Patrol and union websites. I heard them when I was an agent, toward the end of my career, and I still hear them today. Last weekend, while speaking to an El Paso Border Patrol agent, I heard them again.
Many Border Patrol agents view immigrants as “invaders” and their jobs as agents are part of a “war” with migrants. Asylum seekers are “illegal aliens” and “prisoners.” This racist ideology partially explains why agents are not concerned when asylum seekers die in their custody. It is also why they are so willing to violate the Constitution and American asylum law.
Websites such as the official Border Patrol site, the Border Patrol union and local union sites all copy and paste articles and statistics that are anti-immigrant. Add in their secret groups like the infamous “I’m 10-15” Facebook group that the chief and union representatives were members of, and you’ve got a giant cesspool of racism.
The union even has a podcast that is funded by Breitbart, a known "alt-right" media outlet. Union representatives spend hours taping and broadcasting themselves talking about how immigrants are criminals, possible rapists and invaders. I do not know of any other professional law enforcement agency that allows its officers to spread racist, hate propaganda or to be so blatantly political.
Fueled by anti-immigrant racism
Where does all this come from?
It originates with anti-immigrant groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform, Center for Immigration Studies and Numbers USA. All of these groups spread misleading and even false information meant to look like facts about immigrants, specifically Latinos. FAIR calls the Central American caravans an “invasion,” words repeated by the president and by Border Patrol agents. John Tanton, well-known for his concern that America was becoming less white, had a hand in creating all three of these groups.
Open letter from the El Paso Times: Mr. President, the hatred of the El Paso shooting didn't come from our city
The Border Patrol union representatives began appearing at these groups’ conventions and meetings after the 9/11 attacks.The groups praised them, asked them to speak and called the agents heroes. Those reps then took the racist talking points and shared them with the entire Border Patrol via their union website. Today, the union has removed the links because they do not want people to know they are associated with these racist organizations. One look at the Wayback Machine and you can clearly see the links that they gave to all their agents.
As if all of that weren’t enough, Border Patrol union representatives speak regularly on Fox News and testify before Congress. I doubt congressional leaders know that their talking points, vocabulary and statistics often come from these anti-immigrant groups. One example is a video where an agent testifies that “people from Middle Eastern countries” might be crossing the southern border. This is a well-trafficked fear campaign about terrorists that has not proved true.
Flood of racist and false information
Immigration agency officials also use inaccurate statistics that do not match independent testimony. Additionally, many top managers at the various immigration agencies are former members or have received awards and spoken at events held by these anti-immigrant groups. From the academy where they're trained to the stations where they serve, agents are flooded with racist, misleading and even false information fed to them by these groups.
El Paso shooting: 'Open season' on Hispanics in America thanks to 'racist in chief' Trump
No, it’s not video games. It’s not movies, television or rap music.
The president, his administration, immigration agencies (the Border Patrol in particular) and right-wing media all have one influence and speak with one voice: the hateful voice of anti-immigrant groups.
This is what influenced the El Paso shooter.
Jenn Budd is a former senior patrol agent in the U.S. Border Patrol, a volunteer at migrant shelters on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border and a Define American ambassador. Read more of her writing at southernborder.org and follow her on Twitter: @BuddJenn
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump not alone in hateful language, some border agents also use it