Before knowing any facts about the shooting at YouTube headquarters, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) speculated on national television that the shooter “could be” an “illegal immigrant.” At the time Rohrabacher made such a wildly irresponsible link, law enforcement had yet to hold a press conference, or identify the shooter and possible motive.
But not knowing any facts didn’t stop Rohrabacher from “exploiting a tragedy to push his political agenda,” according to ThinkProgress. Rohrabacher has a long history of anti-immigrant rhetoric, often veering into outright racism.
At about 12:45 p.m., reports came in of a shooting at YouTube’s San Bruno headquarters, with both police and swat teams responding.
Barely an hour later, Rohrabacher appeared on Fox News. He was scheduled to speak about issues related to sanctuary city and sanctuary state laws. But with events unfolding in San Bruno, he was asked to comment.
Before even offering perfunctory “thoughts and prayers” for the victims, Rohrabacher launched into an attack on sanctuary cities and immigrants.
“Would anyone listening to you right now say, ‘Well, this certainly wouldn’t be an illegal immigrant,'” he said. “It could be!”
Rohrabacher went on to say “[a]ny illegal in this state should be sent back whether he’s a criminal or not.” Rohrabacher derisively uses the term “illegals,” a thinly-veiled term meant to disparage undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Latin America.
The host on Fox Business thanked Rohrabacher for bringing up “an excellent point.”
More than 30 minutes later, law enforcement officials held a press conference to update the public about the shooting, and still did not identify the shooter. The police also noted several people were injured, and it appeared that the shooter died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Yet Rohrabacher knew none of this information when he decided to rant against undocumented immigrants in the midst of a mass shooting.
This is not the first time Rohrabacher incorrectly linked sanctuary cities to crime rates. At a recent Facebook Live “town hall,” Rohrabacher falsely linked immigration to crime, despite the fact that researchers found “no evidence that crime is higher in cities that become sanctuaries.” Further, the Cato Institute, a traditional GOP ally, found “even illegal immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated than native-born Americans.”
In the past, Rohrabacher’s anti-immigrant sentiments have been striking. He called supporters of the 2010 bipartisan DREAM Act “racist libs,” saying that a bill to provide legal status to children brought to this country by their parents amounted to a “betrayal of Americans.” He claimed the bill would adversely impact “non-minority” citizens, presumably referring to white people.
In another instance, Rohrabacher reportedly told a Dreamer that he “hates illegals,” and made veiled threats to deport her. The Dreamer, who was visiting Rohrabacher’s Capitol Hill office, left in tears.
So when a mass shooting happened, Rohrabacher’s first thoughts were to create a link to undocumented immigrants. It didn’t matter that he had no facts or evidence to back up his speculation.
He certainly did not bring up issues around gun or gun control. While huge swaths of the country recently marched for commonsense gun control, Rohrabacher (who has an “A” rating from the NRA, along with their endorsement and thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the gun lobby) ignored the issue altogether, and focused his ire on immigrants.
The unfolding tragedy was just one more opportunity to denigrate and insult immigrants, something Rohrabacher has spent a career doing.