Gov. Greg Abbott says “mistakes were made” in his immigration letter before the El Paso shooting

Texas Tribune News

Gov. Greg Abbott meets with El Paso area state legislators on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, four days after a mass murderer killed 22 people at a WalMart in El Paso.
Gov. Greg Abbott meets with El Paso area state legislators on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, four days after a mass murderer killed 22 people at a WalMart in El Paso.
Jesus Rosales for The Texas Tribune

EL PASO — Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday that “mistakes were made” in his fundraising letter that used alarmist language in calling to “DEFEND” the Texas border and was dated one day before a deadly shooting that targeted Hispanics in El Paso.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the second meeting of the newly formed Texas Safety Commission, Abbott said he talked to members of the El Paso legislative delegation about the mailer and “emphasized the importance of making sure that rhetoric will not be used in any dangerous way.”

“I did get the chance to visit with the El Paso delegation and help them understand that mistakes were made and course correction has been made,” he said. “We will make sure that we work collaboratively in unification. I had the opportunity to visit with [the El Paso delegation] for about an hour to fully discuss the issue.”

In his short remarks, Abbott didn’t address the specific language of the letter, what mistakes were made or what course correction has been made on his end. His apology comes nearly a week after The Texas Tribune first reported on the letter, which cautioned of supposed political implications that could come with unchecked illegal immigration.

“The national Democrat machine has made no secret of the fact that it hopes to ‘turn Texas blue.’ If they can do it in California, they can do it in Texas — if we let them,” Abbott wrote in the fundraising appeal.

The governor signed off with another pointed warning: “Unless you and I want liberals to succeed in their plan to transform Texas — and our entire country — through illegal immigration, this is a message we MUST send.”

Members of the El Paso legislative delegation were not immediately available for comment on Abbott’s remarks about the letter, but prior to Thursday’s meeting, a handful told the Tribune that they were ready to leave any ill will in the past, put politics aside and focus on healing and rebuilding their community.

“I think our community is healing and I think those kinds of comments are hurtful and our delegation acknowledged that publicly,” said state Rep. César Blanco, A Democrat whose district encompasses the Walmart where the shooting took place. “We need to move forward and make sure we do the business of the state. … That’s paramount and that’s what we’ll be focused on.”