EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — The same night president Trump said America’s future is “blazing bright” and its economy is booming, a Texas congresswoman told the nation that many people have been marginalized.
“President Trump’s economic policies have created a growing inequality that is giving rise to two United States: one in which the wealthiest 1% is benefiting and another that is leaving behind many farmers, businesses and working families,” said U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas.
Escobar, who represents heavily Hispanic and heavily Democratic El Paso, Texas, was one of two Democrats asked by their party to deliver the official rebuttal to the President’s State of the Union address on Tuesday. Escobar addressed the nation’s Spanish-speakers and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gave the official response in English.
Speaking on the campus of an El Paso clinic for low-income residents, in a neighborhood very close to the Mexican border, Escobar chided Trump and his Republican Party for refusing to expand Medicaid.
“Health care is a right for everyone, not a privilege for a few. … Here in Texas, the Republican leaders have declined to move even one finger to improve access to affordable and quality health care. In my state, Medicaid expansion could provide care for hundreds of thousands of Texans,” she said. “Republicans all over the country are actively fighting to dismantle benefits that save lives, working the courts to eliminate the protections of the Affordable Care Act including protections for the 130 million people with preexisting conditions.”
While the President declared that “our borders are secured, our values are renewed” during his speech, Escobar accused him of turning his back on traditional American values and encouraging hate.
“I remember seeing the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island for the first time,” Escobar said. “She stands as the guardian of our ideals: that all people are created equal, that we must help the most vulnerable and not reject them, and that the United States is a shining example of what is good.”
She followed that up by talking about Trump “turning his back” on the young, educated unauthorized immigrants known as “Dreamers;” the death of migrant children in custody; and the implementation of the controversial Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, that keeps asylum seekers in dangerous Mexican border cities while their cases crawl through federal immigration court.
“These are policies that none of us imagined would happen in these United States,” she said.
Then, she reminded her audience that she was speaking from a city that last Aug. 3 endured the mass killing of 22 civilians the alleged shooter targeted for being “Mexican.”
“A domestic terrorist confessed to traveling more than 10 hours to attack Mexicans and immigrants. Just before starting his wave of murders, he published his views online and used the same hateful words used by President Trump to describe immigrants and Latinos,” she said. “That day, the murderer extinguished 22 innocent lives, injured dozens and broke our hearts.”
She added that violent incidents involving firearms take place “every day” in schools, churches and neighborhoods, and urged Congress and the President to enact gun controls.
“It’s up to all of use, amid some of the most challenging times in history, to reflect the dignity, the grace and the beauty of Lady Liberty and the values of the United States,” Escobar said.
‘She spoke for all of us’
Border residents invited to Escobar’s response to the State of the Union address said they felt glad to see El Paso back on the national spotlight.
“She (Escobar) spoke for all of us tonight. She spoke eloquently, she spoke passionately about the things that matter more to the families of El Paso,” said Estela Reyes Lopez, spokeswoman for La Fe Family Health Center, which hosted the event. “She spoke on immigration reform, on social justice (and) issues that matter to everyday families here, families that are concerned about what they put on the table to eat, housing and health care, a major concern here.”
Raneem Karbogi, who said she’s been active in raising awareness on environmental and women’s issues, among others, said it was time El Paso became the national center of attention in a positive way.
The city “has been the focus for a very long time in unfortunate ways by the President, so bringing that (attention) to our community is important,” she said.”It’s unfortunate that our community faced that (August) attack and I think it’s all because of Trump’s rhetoric … it’s been really shocking for it to hit home…”
Marisa Limon Garza, deputy director of the Hope Border Institute, said she was glad to have Escobar as a spokesperson for the people of the border, especially “to counter some of the migrant narratives that we hear about.”
She added that Trump’s economic discourse is overshadowed here by other issues.
“We have faced many challenges (on the border). The past year has brought further militarization, more wall construction, more obstacles to communities. It’s not necessarily provided a better quality of life for people who live here, whether it’s health care or access to that vibrant economy that we often tout,” she said.