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Texas State Sen. José Rodríguez Reacts To Trump's Visit To El Paso

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Earlier today, we spoke with Democratic state Senator Jose Rodriguez. The district he represents includes El Paso. He joined us from there, where he spent the day speaking with El Pasoans and donating blood with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. I asked him how everyone was holding up.

JOSE RODRIGUEZ: Well, we are holding up, I think, with determination to get over this. As has already been mentioned, El Paso's a community that is strong. It's resilient, very welcoming and - but everyone is in mourning. We all are still hurting for what happened to our families and their victim relatives. And, of course, we can't forget that this was an attack by a white supremacist on the Latino community and Mexicans. And that signifies that from a national perspective, this is not just El Paso that should be concerned about what happened here. It should be everyone in this country when the white supremacists start targeting whole populations like the Latino community.

CORNISH: Can I ask you a little more about this?

RODRIGUEZ: And so we're looking at it from that standpoint as well.

CORNISH: I know you've asked state leaders to consider funding law enforcement to address hate violence in Texas. What kinds of programs do you think the state should spend money on to do that?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, the state - we, the delegation, had a meeting a few hours ago with the governor - lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House. And we specifically discussed what can be done in the immediate term and what can be done in the long term in terms of policy and legislative changes. So the discussion ranged from gun safety legislation to dealing with hate crimes and white nationalists and racism, along with making sure that there are enough resources provided to the community. The governor mentioned he would - going to be offering about $5.5 million immediately through various agencies for victims assistance, for hospital needs, for law enforcement and so forth. So we have started a dialogue within the state leadership about what needs to be done to ensure that this doesn't happen again not just in El Paso but in the rest of the state.

CORNISH: I know since 2015, you've tried and failed to get Texas to pass a red flag gun law - right? - that bars people temporarily to - who show signs of violence from owning or buying a gun. This is something President Trump and other national Republicans are talking about. Do you think this is the year it will pass in Texas?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, I certainly hope so. We brought up the issue with the state leadership, and I specifically mentioned that I had introduced that legislation now for three separate legislative sessions and not gotten the support that is needed to get it passed, including from the leadership. And so it's - right now, people are upset. They're angry. You mentioned in your report earlier that there's plenty of people here who don't want to welcome the president. The fact of the matter is, he's on the ground as we speak, and we have to just deal with it. But we are looking for concrete solutions. We are not interested in just political diatribe. And we want to see if we can find ways in which we can work on a bipartisan basis here at the state level to ensure that we get some meaningful reforms in place and policy changes that need to be in place to deal with these twin issues of gun safety and rising white nationalism and racism in this country.

CORNISH: That's state Senator Jose Rodriguez of El Paso.

Thank you for speaking with us.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.