ICE and CBP Deny Rumors Agents Are 'Targeting Victims' of El Paso Shooting

U.S. immigration authorities have been pushing to shut down "false rumors" they say are being spread to suggest that federal agents have been "targeting victims" of Saturday's mass shooting in El Paso, which is being investigated as an act of domestic terrorism.

On Sunday, both the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agencies sought to dispel apparent rumors suggesting federal agents might be carrying out enforcement operations against the Hispanic and immigrant communities targeted in Saturday's shooting, which left 20 people dead and more than two dozen others injured.

"Rumors continue to circulate on social media that CBP/Border Patrol is targeting victims of the tragic shooting," the CBP West Texas division tweeted.

"These statements are untrue. CBP personnel have returned to regular duties which include hospital watch duties for those in our custody requiring medical attention," the division said.

In the hours after Saturday's shooting, CBP West Texas had sought to notify the public that its personnel, "including Border Patrol agents [and] Field Operations officers" had returned to their "regular duties" after responding to assist state, local and federal law enforcement partners as part of an all-law-enforcement-agency response.

However, it said, "we are not conducting enforcement operations at area hospitals, the family reunification center or shelters. We stand in support of our community."

In a similar statement, ICE also sought to dispel apparent rumors that its agents were conducting immigration enforcement operations against El Paso residents.

"Despite false rumors to the contrary, ICE does not conduct immigration enforcement operations during tragedies like the one that recently impacted El Paso, Texas," ICE said in a Twitter thread.

"The men and women of ICE unite with the rest of our El Paso community in this sad and difficult time," the agency said.

It added that its officers and special agents had been part of the "all-law-enforcement-agency response" to an "unprecedented [and] horrific event," asserting that "we always render aid to communities in distress [and] to our law enforcement partners."

ICE said: "Instead we must stand as one community to focus on aiding the victims and their families."

In the wake of Saturday's mass shooting, immigration advocates expressed concerns that members of the immigrant community might be afraid to seek medical help or other assistance after the attack over fears of being targeted by immigration authorities.

That is likely why both CBP and ICE sought to clarify that they would not be carrying out immigration enforcement operations in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

Asked to expand on how long both agencies would be refraining from conducting immigration enforcement operations following Saturday's attack, both ICE and CBP referred Newsweek to their tweets. When asked again to specifically address the question of when the two agencies might resume immigration enforcement operations, neither gave an immediate response.

U.S. officials announced Sunday that they would be treating Saturday's shooting as a "domestic terrorist case," with U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas John Bash asserting that the attack appeared "to be designed to intimidate a civilian population, to say the least."

In the lead-up to the attack, the suspect, Patrick Crusius, a 21-year-old resident of Allen, Texas, is believed to have posted a "manifesto" the website 8chan railing against the Latino community, immigrants and the Republican Party's "inaction" to prevent what the author suggested was the destruction of the United States.

El Paso
People hold up their phones in lieu of candles at an interfaith vigil for victims of a mass shooting, which left at least 20 people dead, on August 4, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. U.S. immigration authorities have sought to shut down apparent rumors that they have been "targeting" those affected by the shooting.