Day 6

'It came back all over again': Mother of Parkland victim near El Paso massacre

Patricia Oliver, whose son Joaquin died in the Parkland shooting, was just outside El Paso when she heard that another mass shooting had occurred just minutes away.

Patricia Oliver was near El Paso to honour her son on what would have been his 19th birthday

Manuel Oliver, left, and Patricia Oliver, parents of Parkland shooting victim Joaquin Oliver, participate in the 50 Miles More walk against gun violence on Aug. 23, 2018. The couple was near El Paso, Texas, on Saturday when 22 people were killed in a mass shooting. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Patricia Oliver was honouring the life of her son, who was killed in last year's Parkland shooting, when she learned about Saturday's massacre in El Paso, Texas.

Oliver and her husband, Manuel Oliver, were in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico — just kilometres away from El Paso — meeting with migrants in a detention centre to commemorate what would have been their son Joaquin's 19th birthday.

Joaquin was one of 17 people killed in last year's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

"It brought me back to the same moment that I have to see the news on my screen ... that I have to call Joaquin again to see if he was OK," Oliver told Day 6 host Brent Bambury. 

"It came back all over again."

Saturday's shooting at a crowded El Paso shopping centre left 22 people dead and two dozen injured. 

A day later, a second mass shooting claimed the lives of nine people at a Dayton, Ohio, nightclub. That shooter was killed by police.

'Messages of racism'

Authorities are investigating the El Paso attack as a possible hate crime after an anti-immigrant manifesto, allegedly written by the shooting suspect, was posted online before the shooting. Shortly after the attack, Patrick Crusius confessed to being the shooter and said he targeted Mexicans, according to an Associated Press report.

Oliver says U.S. President Donald Trump's rhetoric on immigration and minorities is unequivocally linked to the attack.

"We have been listening over and over [to] messages of discrimination, messages of racism," she said.

"You get to the conclusion that this was motivated [by] a bad, bad call from our main leader."

Patricia holds up her son Joaquin's diploma during his graduation ceremony in Sunrise, Fla. on June 3, 2018. (Carlos Garcia/Reuters)

During a Wednesday trip to El Paso, Trump faced protests for visiting so soon following the attack. The backlash was, in part, due to his comments on immigration. 

"The president has gone down this ugly path," Cesar Blanco, the Democrat state representative for Texas, told As It Happens on Monday. "I think he owes people an apology. And we really don't believe that he's got any credibility when he says that he condemns racism."

Joaquin advocated for immigrants

The Oliver family planned the trip to Juarez, in part, because the treatment of immigrants to the U.S. was an important issue for Joaquin

"Since we have the loss of him physically, we decided to honour him in ways that we can be doing something very important and remarkable," Oliver said.

People attend a candlelight vigil on Aug. 7, 2019 at a makeshift memorial honouring victims of the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, which left at least 22 people dead. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Manuel Oliver told the Guardian that Joaquin was an advocate for immigrants. The family immigrated to the United States from Venezuela 16 years ago, one day before Joaquin's third birthday.

On Saturday, the couple visited the mostly Central American migrants and asylum seekers who are caught up in the overcrowded immigration detention centre.

The backlog is a result of a Trump administration policy that requires migrants to seek asylum in a country they pass through before attempting to do so in the U.S. 

Change on gun violence 'not enough'

After her son's death last year, Patricia focused her attention on gun law reform in the U.S. 

When she and Manuel learned about the El Paso attack, they crossed the border to speak with the affected community. 

Delivering condolences to residents of El Paso, Patricia says there is still hope that gun violence in the U.S. will change for the better.

"I do think today, we are better than yesterday. But it's not enough," she said.

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