According to Rep. Veronica Escobar, the greatest danger facing Americans is not foreign, economic or even climate related. It is the president himself and his Republican supporters in Congress.
“Honestly, the greatest threat to our security is a president and a Republican-controlled Senate that act only in their own interest,” Escobar said during the Spanish-language response to President Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night. Escobar, a first-term Democrat who represents Texas’ 16th Congressional District in El Paso, took the seat vacated by Beto O’Rourke in January 2019.
Standing in a community health clinic in her hometown of El Paso, Escobar focused her rebuttal particularly on immigration, gun control and Americans’ ability to access health care, saying Trump and congressional Republicans are “actively fighting to dismantle lifesaving benefits.”
“Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Senate, is blocking legislation that would better the lives of veterans, women and families — all of us,” Escobar said, adding that hundreds of bipartisan legislation proposals are “collecting dust” on McConnell’s desk.
Although Escobar specifically invoked the threat of legislation not being passed, she also spoke candidly about Trump’s impeachment trial, saying that it was a “tragic moment” and that “no one is above the law.”
“We know that the president violated his oath when he asked another country to interfere in our elections, putting the integrity of our elections and our national security at risk and later trying to cover up his wrongdoing,” Escobar said.
In her first year serving in the House, Escobar’s district endured the deadliest attack on Latinos in U.S. history when a white gunman, targeting Mexicans, killed 22 people at an El Paso Walmart last August. In her speech, Escobar framed gun violence as a public health epidemic and connected the murders directly to Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.
“Just before [the shooter] began his killing spree, he published his opinions on the Internet, and he used the same hateful words used by President Trump to describe immigrants and Latinos,” Escobar said.
Trump invoked that type of rhetoric during his State of the Union earlier in the night when he cited examples of immigrants in the country illegally who had committed violent crimes in sanctuary cities, even though research suggests that illegal immigration does not increase violent crime.
Escobar has become a vocal critic of Trump’s immigration policies, such as the Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as the Remain in Mexico program, which require asylum-seeking immigrants to wait in Mexico, rather than in the United States, for their day in U.S. immigration court. She also sponsored a bill to create an ombudsman for immigration enforcement issues.
“From the attacks on the young DREAMers, family separation, the deaths of migrant children, to the Remain in Mexico program that sends asylum-seekers into dangerous situations, these are the policies that none of us ever imagined would happen in the United States,” she said.
Escobar is one of the first two Latinas to represent Texas in Congress, along with Rep. Sylvia Garcia, who was elected at the same time. Prior to her election, Escobar was county judge and a county commissioner for El Paso County. She now serves on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Armed Services Committee.
The Spanish-language response to the president’s annual speech has been delivered nearly every year since 2011 by both Democrats and Republicans. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, also in her first term, gave the Democratic response to the president’s State of the Union address.