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EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Democrats and activists are expressing concern that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive for state officers and National Guard troops to return unauthorized migrants to the border will incite violence.

The order is the latest instance of fearmongering for political gain using migrants as a prop, participants in a Wednesday teleconference sponsored by America’s Voice said.

“What he is doing is very dangerous,” said U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, saying Abbott is embracing and promoting extremism using state resources. “I am very concerned that communities like mine will see more acts of violence against immigrants, against Latinos, against residents of the border.”

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas.

Escobar represents most of El Paso, which on Aug. 3, 2019, was shocked by the allegedly racially motivated attack at a local Walmart that left 23 people dead. “Should there be any violence, I hope (Abbott) is held accountable,” she said.

The rhetoric puts in harm’s way not only migrants, but people of color as well, said Mario Carrillo, campaigns manager for America’s Voice, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy nonprofit.

“This will undoubtedly lead to racial profiling of families that look a lot like mine,” said Carrillo, who was born in Mexico, was raised in Texas, and is married to a woman who was brought into the U.S. while in infancy without immigration documents. “This is only the latest stunt in a line of stunts that Gov. Abbott has launched against migrants as an attempt to distract Texans from his failure at keeping us safe but could be his most dangerous one yet.”

Border Report reached out to Abbott’s campaign office for comment and is awaiting a response.

Escobar said the use by Republicans like Abbott of the word “invasion” is tragic, given that many of the migrants coming across are mothers with children or people fleeing violence and persecution. “It is tragic to hear them call these human beings an invasion. It’s actually very sickening,” she said. “What they’re doing is jumping on a bandwagon they see as popular for electoral politics.”

Political experts have told Border Report that illegal immigration remains a hot-button issue in American politics and is one of the arguments – along with rising inflation and lingering COVID-19 issues – Republicans are pushing to recover the House and Senate in the mid-term elections.

But the rise in unauthorized migration is real and Democrats acknowledge it.

“The increase in migration year after year is not a new issue, it’s not a new situation,” Escobar said. “It is definitely increasing, there is no doubt about that.”

She added the situation at the border is “unsustainable” but said that is not the result of “open borders,” as the Republicans claim, but rather the failure of Congress to reform immigration laws.

“Asylum at the border has essentially been shut down. […] People shouldn’t be surprised we have more unauthorized migration if we shut down legal immigration paths” Escobar said.

The Democratic view of reform includes the legalization of unauthorized migrants already in the country and more legal pathways for people to come to the United States. Republicans led by U.S. Rep. Elvira Salazar, R-Florida, have filed a bill that includes legalization but requires employers to use E-Verify, a government database of who is eligible to work in the U.S.

Escobar said Republicans have blocked every recent attempt at immigration reform because “they like the status quo,” meaning the rise in illegal immigration and the humanitarian crisis at the Southwest border has become political ammo against President Joe Biden and Democrats.