Following the tragic shooting that took five family members' lives in Cleveland, Texas, right-wing media are using the immigration status of the alleged shooter to fearmonger about the criminality of migrants and supposed open border policies instituted by President Joe Biden’s administration.
A man identified as Francisco Oropesa has been arrested by law enforcement for the killing of five of his neighbors in Cleveland, Texas. Following repeated gunshots past 11 p.m. close to their home, one neighbor filed a noise complaint while others tried to ask Oropesa to shoot further from the adjoining yard to not disturb a sleeping infant. After Oropesa refused, survivor Wilson Garcia reportedly called the police five times to no avail, and when police arrived five were already dead or fatally wounded. On May 2, days after Oropesa had fled the scene, authorities arrested him in a house only a few miles away from where the killings took place.
Despite his current immigration status being unclear, right-wing media has drawn attention to the killer’s four past deportations, weaponizing this tragedy to rehash old talking points suggesting that immigrants commit violent crimes. Multiple studies have shown that undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than U.S. citizens by a significant margin. In a tweet in which he offered a $50,000 reward for information on Oropesa’s whereabouts,Texas Governor Greg Abbott labeled the victims as “illegal immigrants” despite a lack of confirmation from authorities about their immigration statuses.
Right-wing media have followed Abbott’s lead, taking the opportunity to make dishonest claims about Biden creating an “open border,” emphasize the killer’s immigration status, and harp on the immigration status of the victims and shooter.
Right-wing media capitalizing on this devastating shooting to make cheap shots at migrants and push the repeatedly debunked claim about Biden’s open border policies is a tired pattern used over and over again. In 2023 alone, right-wing media has baselessly fearmongered about Chinese asylum seekers spying and bringing in drugs, endorsed right-wing militia activity on the border to “curb” immigration, and made wild accusations that migrants are bringing in “fentanyl” and “rape.” Furthermore, right-wing media’s indignation over this particular shooting is transparently dependent on the immigration element of the story, as their coverage of shootings that don’t involve migrants mostly consists of complaints about gun control efforts and defenses of assault weapons.
Right-wing media emphasize the killer’s immigration status to suggest a link between migrants and violent crime
- On the May 1 episode of Fox News’ Fox and Friends, co-anchor Brian Kilmeade criticized Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas for not mentioning the killer’s immigration status in an interview on MSNBC’s Meet the Press. According to Kilmeade, Mayorkas did not “want to entertain that aspect of this brutal murder.”
- Washington Free Beacon published an article on May 1 titled “Suspect on Run in Texas After Mass Murder Is Illegal Immigrant Deported 5 Times,” spotlighting the alleged shooter’s immigration status rather than the tragedy itself.
- National Review also framed an article around the killer’s deportations, citing an ICE statement to Fox News that stated that “the suspect was in the country illegally at the time of the shooting and had previously reentered the country illegally multiple times.”
- In response to an ABC news piece on the shooting, right-wing media commentator Ann Coulter tweeted, “Everybody stand down. Shooter was a Mexican illegal alien.”
- Fox host Harris Faulkner called foul on how a Time article labeled the killer, questioning, “Anybody at Time care to get the facts straight on this? He is NOT a Texas man. That’s an insult to Texans and to every American. No part of any of our United States should claim that illegal immigrant who was deported FIVE times… now wanted for mass murder.
- Former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke Jr. tweeted in reference to the outrage surrounding Abbott’s classification of the victims, “What’s the problem? If that’s what they are then that’s what they are. Should have called them 'illegal aliens'. So is the suspect who is probably already back in Mexico because our porous southern border makes it easy to illegally cross back and forth.”
- A New York Post article discussing the “flak” Abbott has received for his comments calling the victims “illegal immigrants” conceded that the “police confirmed that all the victims in the shooting were from Honduras, but have not mentioned their immigration status.”
Right-wing media use the tragedy to make dishonest claims about Biden’s immigration policies
- On the May 1 episode of Fox & Friends, president for the National Border Patrol Council Brandon Judd argued that the Biden administration has “blood on their hands” and that “they look at what their base wants and they pander to that rather than doing what is doing best for this country,” over putting in place policies that would “secure the border tomorrow.”
- During the May 1 episode of Fox News’ Hannity, Mark Levin blamed Biden for the shooting, saying, “All the murders and rapes, all the assaults and batteries, all the theft that occurs from people who were here illegally. That's on Joe Biden's hands.”
- In a May 1 Ingraham Angle segment discussing the shooting, Fox News host Laura Ingraham claimed that Democrats “have no remorse for these deadly policies” and that “an open border is the most uncompassionate thing you could do, thank you very much.”
- Tomi Lahren tweeted “I’m sure it was the gun’s fault,” and linked to a Fox News article whose headline directly referenced the immigrant status of the alleged shooter.
- Conspiracy theorist and actor James Woods tweeted, “Close the damned border already, for the love of God. #BidenBorderCrisis,” with a link to the same Fox News article Lahren tweeted.