Gov. Abbott faces backlash after calling Cleveland, Texas, shooting victims 'illegal immigrants'

The manhunt continues for the person accused of killing five people, including a mother and her nine-year-old son in Cleveland, Texas, northeast of Houston. 

Governor Abbott is now facing backlash for calling the victims "illegal immigrants" in a statement and on social media.

There is also an $80,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspect. 


Ed Espinosa, Democratic analyst, and Matt Mackowiak, chair of the Travis County GOP, joined FOX 7 Austin's Mike Warren to discuss.

MIKE WARREN: Ed, what do you think about the governor making it about immigration?

ED ESPINOZA: You know, for a horrible tragedy like this, it's very upsetting that the top politician in Texas would make this about illegal immigration their docket. This, whether they're there documented, doesn't mean they're going to be any less dead or alive when a bullet comes flying at them. But aside from the fact that not all of them were undocumented, I think it was an irrelevant thing to put in the news release. But he did it because this is part of his political agenda, and it's shameful.

MIKE WARREN: Matt Mackowiak, what do you make of that, talking about immigration status among the victims?

MATT MACKOWIAK: Yeah, I would agree that, that among the victims, their immigration status is not a relevant fact. You could perhaps make an argument that if we had an effective border security and legal immigration system, that illegal immigrants here who were the victim of crimes might not have been victimized. Setting that aside to me, that again, that's fairly irrelevant. What I think is relevant is the immigration status of the gunman. The fact that he's been deported four times was able to regain entry. How was he able to get a weapon if he's not a non-illegal citizen and if he's already entered the country and deported four times? To me, I think that is relevant. That is something I don't think Democrats want to talk about, and that is something that needs a lot more inspection.

MIKE WARREN: Ed Espinoza, what do you make of those questions that Matt has posed? 

ED ESPINOZA: Well, I think that we can talk about whether he got to have access to a gun because he was undocumented. But the shooter in Sutherland Springs wasn't undocumented. The shooter in Walmart in El Paso wasn't undocumented. The shooter in so many of these places are not undocumented. The Uvalde shooter wasn't. The problem isn't the immigration. The problem is the unfettered access to guns and how proliferate prolific they are in this state. This is really a problem that unfortunately, this tragedy that we saw and of course, the tragedy we saw is going to happen again. The odds are that it will happen again. The way to stop this is to address the gun violence. 

MIKE WARREN: Ed, just a quick follow. This suspect was deported four times, and just seems to be coming back and forth. Is security of the border a question in this worth looking at?

ED ESPINOZA: Sure, of course it is. I think that border security is an issue and immigration is an issue as well. It is not the only issue when it comes to gun violence. So if Governor Abbott wants to say that immigration is the cause for gun violence, of course that's outrageous. Gun violence happens to anyone and everyone and more often not to people, regardless of their status. 

MIKE WARREN: You know, Matt Mackowiak, obviously we've been talking all about this, but when something like this happens, is it right to even talk about political issues? 

MATT MACKOWIAK: Well, one of the challenges we have is that obviously every one of these mass shooting incidences is unique. The fashion unique circumstances are unique. And so when we look at one individual case, and we try to develop laws or policies that can prevent the next one will the next one will be the same as this one. So it is frustrating at this point. I do think there are also some questions to be asked about the police response. Family members of the victims have indicated that they called several times that they were told there are police already on the scene. So I don't I don't know exactly what happened there. We just hope now that with more than 250 law enforcement officials engaged in the manhunt, we can bring this dangerous person in and arrest them and protect the public going forward. 

ED ESPINOZA: Agree with Matt. 

MIKE WARREN: Okay, gentlemen, we got to wrap it up here. Ed, Matt, thank you both very much.