BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa has released a statement on a mass casualty event in Brownsville.

At least seven people died and more were injured after a motorist plowed through pedestrians waiting for a bus on Minnesota Avenue. Police received a call about the incident at 8:30 am on Sunday. The bus stop is in front of the Enrique San Pedro Ozanan Center, a shelter for migrants and homeless people. Video footage from a surveillance camera showed an SUV running a red light and approaching the bus stop at speed. Those killed and injured are believed to migrants from Venezuela.

Hinojosa, a Brownsville resident, issued this statement:

“As the former Cameron County Judge, a resident of Brownsville, a lifelong Mexican-American RGV Texan, and as a human being — I have no words today to describe the anguish and the sickness I feel at this morning’s horrific incident in my town.

“To the families of all of those killed or injured in today’s tragic event, my heart is with you all — and we will all be praying for you. But we know that prayers can’t bring back loved ones.

“While the incident is still under investigation, there is no doubt that our state’s leaders are painting a target on migrants’ backs. Political actors — who just want to score points with the absolute worst fringes of society — are ginning people up and getting them to hate their fellow brothers and sisters, and turning human being against human being. 

“My words will fall on deaf ears, but with all my heart, I hope that Republicans take this moment and use it for even the slightest bit of introspection. Using words like ‘invasion’ may get you retweets and Fox News hits — but it’s also causing real-life carnage. 

“Please, for the love of God, stop this hate-mongering.” 

In Hinojosa’s news release, the Texas Democratic Party notes that Texas House Republicans are 48 hours away from voting on House Bill 20, authored by state Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler. HB 20 creates a Citizen Texas Border Patrol Unit under the auspices of the Department of Public Safety. Critics say this would be a vigilante unit made up of unqualified individuals. 

Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez

Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez has issued two statements about the deaths of the migrants.

Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez

The first said: “A very tragic incident occurred early this morning on Minnesota as a group of individuals were struck by an SUV while waiting for a bus. Seven have died and several others are injured. Information so far indicates that the deceased were migrants who sheltered overnight at the Ozanan Center. As details come in, I ask that everyone be respectful of the victims as the police investigation continues to take place.”

The second statement from Mayor Mendez said: 

“As we continue to receive information on the tragic incident that occurred today, we have yet to receive evidence that this was an intentional act. Our police department continues with the investigation after apprehending the driver of the vehicle at the scene. The driver has thus far been uncooperative. It is expected that our Police Department will hold a press conference tomorrow morning.”

Mendez said he wanted to thank officials who have reached out to him personally to express their sympathies to the Brownsville community. He said they include Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, White House staff, US Senator John Cornyn, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, US Rep. Greg Casar of San Antonio, state Rep. Janie Lopez of San Benito, and state Rep. Erin Gámez of Brownsville.

Texas Civil Rights Project

Rochelle Garza, president of the Texas Civil Rights Project and a resident of Brownsville, issued the following statement:

Rochelle Garza

“I cannot describe the heartache I feel at hearing the news from this morning, not just as an advocate for the rights of migrants, but as a resident of Brownsville. My heart goes out to those who were impacted by this tragedy. Justice demands a full investigation into what happened this morning, and that there is accountability for the lives lost. 

“As we wait for a full investigation, we cannot ignore that partisan politicians’ extreme rhetoric on immigration has completely lost sight of the humanity of the men, women, and children who are seeking the protection of our country. This has escalated to a point that on Tuesday, the Texas House is set to consider HB 20, a proposal that could empower vigilantes to hunt down anyone they believe to be a migrant, with little oversight or accountability.

“I hope that today serves as a wake up call, and that State officials will begin investing in a humanitarian response that might have helped the people who were impacted by this morning’s tragedy. For our part, the Texas Civil Rights Project staff is ready to step in and provide legal aid and support to those impacted.”

Bishop Daniel E. Flores

Bishop of Brownsville Daniel E. Flores issued this statement:

“We mourn and are shocked by the horrific loss of the lives of the seven immigrant men from Venezuela who were killed when a vehicle crashed into them this morning in Brownsville. And we pray for several others who were injured and are in serious condition. 

Bishop Daniel E. Flores

“This tragedy occurred this morning outside the Enrique San Pedro Ozanam Center, a place that has served the homeless and immigrants for decades. Over the past several months in particular Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley has worked closely with the Ozanam Center in Brownsville to help provide humanitarian aid to the immigrant population as they seek shelter while making arrangements to meet with their families further north. This is done as an assistance to, and with the cooperation of government authorities. 

“The safety, protection and assistance of the immigrant men, women and children who have been given permission to stay in the United States remains a priority for the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville and for our generous staff and volunteers at Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. 

“We must resist the corrosive tendency to devalue the lives of immigrants, the poor, and the vulnerable. Let us take extra steps as a local community to care for and protect one another, especially the most vulnerable. 

“As we await a fuller report from law enforcement authorities, let us stop for a moment to mourn these losses of life and to pray. Pray for the victims, pray for their families and loved ones, and pray for our community. And after we pray, let us continue our common efforts to serve those most in need.”

ACLU of Texas

Oni Blair, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, issued this statement:

Oni Blair

“We grieve for the victims in Brownsville, Texas, who were run over outside a migrant shelter where people from around the world are seeking asylum and safety. We understand the motive is still under investigation. 

“This horrific event comes after weeks of escalating anti-immigrant policy-making by Texas politicians and while the Biden administration considers imposing a new asylum ban aimed at deterring, rather than welcoming, migrants seeking protection.

“President Biden, Texas Gov. Abbott, and other elected officials continue to spread fear about immigration instead of treating the needs of people crossing the border as a humanitarian matter. We call on federal, state, and local governments to take immediate action to protect migrants and to lead with compassion. That includes ensuring witnesses of the alleged attack can come forward without fear of deportation or reprisals.

“No matter where we live or how long we’ve been there, every person in Texas should feel safe going about our daily lives.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa.

Editor’s Note: We will bring more news and reaction on the incident outside the Ozanan Center in later editions.

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