Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse on Friday linked the Trump administration’s tough rhetoric against illegal immigration to gun violence last month that killed shoppers at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas.
“When you have people, young and old, being massacred at a retail store, we know that it is time for a change,” Neguse, a Boulder Democrat, said at a press conference that coincided with a hearing of the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration and citizenship.
Most of the 22 victims in the Aug. 3 shooting by a lone gunman were Hispanic, some of them Mexican citizens.
The subcommittee held the field hearing in El Paso to hear opinions from advocacy groups and officials about alleged harassment of immigrants during President Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal border crossings.
“I happen to come from a state that is no stranger to gun violence,” Neguse said in a reference to mass shootings in Aurora, Highlands Ranch and Columbine.
“The people of Colorado stand with you,” he said. “We stand with you shoulder to shoulder against hate and against the violence that has become so pervasive across our country.”
Neguse is the son of immigrants from Eritrea.
Witnesses at the hearing included Shaw Drake, an American Civil Liberties Union of Texas attorney, and Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights.
Neguse asked Drake about children of illegal immigrants who were seized and held in detention by U.S. border officials. He estimated the number of children in the thousands.
“Where are those children now?” Neguse asked.
Drake said the government lacks accountability on how the children are handled.
“We simply don’t know how many children are being held,” Drake responded.
Neguse asked Garcia about the lifestyles of immigrant residents of El Paso.
Garcia said some of them lived with “extreme fear” of deportation or arrest.
“You have mothers afraid to take their kids to school or to buy groceries,” he said.
Colorado Rep. Ken Buck, a Windsor Republican, is the ranking member of the subcommittee on immigration and citizenship. Neither Buck or any other Republican members of the subcommittee participated in the El Paso field hearing.
However, he previously has asked lawmakers to appropriate more funds to address immigration problems. In a late June statement, he criticized Democrats’ proposal for $4.5 billion in supplemental aid to manage what they described as a human crisis along the Mexican border.
“I cannot support a $4.5 billion aid package that fails to address the root causes of the humanitarian crisis at the border,” Buck said.
Instead, he prefers legislation to hire more immigration judges and to increase the budget for Immigration and Customs Enforcement salaries and investigations.
Neguse said during the hearing Tuesday that Congress is considering new legislation on immigration policy but he gave few details.
In the latest federal policy move, the Defense Department announced this week it would divert funds from 127 military projects to pay for construction of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.
The idea of shifting the $3.6 billion, including money for schools and daycare centers for military families, originated with Trump.