Greg Abbott slammed for calling Texas mass shooting victims "illegal immigrants"

"Five human beings lost their lives and Abbott insists on labeling them 'illegal immigrants,'" said Julian Castro

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Staff Writer

Published May 1, 2023 10:33AM (EDT)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference on January 31, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference on January 31, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott drew sharp criticism for referring to the five people who were killed in a mass shooting in Cleveland, Texas last week as "illegal immigrants." 

Abbott in a statement on Friday offered condolences to the victims' families and posted a $50,000 reward for information about the shooter.

"Governor Greg Abbott today announced a $50,000 reward for a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) top 10 fugitive who is in the country illegally and killed five illegal immigrants in a shooting Friday night in Cleveland, Texas," read a statement from Abbott's Twitter account.

On Friday, an intoxicated man fatally shot his neighbors, including an 8-year-old boy, with an AR-15-style rifle after they asked him to stop shooting his gun in the air.

"My understanding is that the victims, they came over to the fence and said 'Hey could [you not do your] shooting out in the yard? We have a young baby that's trying to go to sleep. And he had been drinking, and he says 'I'll do what I want to in my front yard,'" San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers told KRTK, a local ABC News affiliate in Houston.

Authorities have not yet released the immigration status of the victims, though immigration rights activist Carlos Eduardo Espina reported that one of the victims was a legal resident.

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Immigration groups condemned Abbott's remarks.

"Public figures like Abbott leverage their status by using social media to amplify language painting a specific narrative intended to alter the way you view plus treat the people around you," the Immigrant Legal Resource Center wrote on Twitter. "The victims here were your neighbors. They were your friends. They were your colleagues."

"When we read things like that statement from Abbott and his social media team we are confronted with a choice," a separate tweet read. "Do we want to live in a world where people are not granted their dignity and humanity even in the face of unimaginable tragedy? Or do we want — this?"

"Five human beings lost their lives and Greg Abbott insists on labeling them 'illegal immigrants,'" said Julian Castro, former Housing and Urban Development secretary and Democratic presidential candidate.

Authorities currently do not have any leads on where the suspect, 38-year-old Francisco Oropesa, could be.

"Right now, we just don't know because if we did, we would have him in custody right now," FBI Special Agent James Smith said. "We do not know where he is, we do not have any tips right now of where he may be."

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Gabriella Ferrigine is a staff writer at Salon. Originally from the Jersey Shore, she moved to New York City in 2016 to attend Columbia University, where she received her B.A. in English and M.A. in American Studies. Formerly a staff writer at NowThis News, she has an M.A. in Magazine Journalism from NYU and was previously a news fellow at Salon.

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