U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat from El Paso, is asking the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the recent fatal shooting of two immigrants in Texas as a hate crime.

Two men, Mike Thomas Sheppard and Mark Edward Sheppard, both 60, were arrested after the shooting Sept. 27. They allegedly shot at immigrants who had stopped to drink water a few miles from the border, according to the criminal affidavit. Two immigrants were shot and one died.

According to the affidavit they shouted at immigrants in Spanish, “Come out you sons of bi*****, little a****!”

“I  am calling on the @DOJ to investigate this murderous attack as a hate crime,”  Escobar tweeted Friday.

Escobar also blamed Republicans for their anti-immigrant  rhetoric.

“And once again I’m calling on Republicans to stop their racist, hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric that dehumanizes migrants. The consequences of their behavior are deadly,” the congresswoman tweeted.

In 2021 there was a 41% rise in anti-Latino hate crimes in major cities, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. The center also reported spikes in anti-Latino hate crimes in summer 2018 around the time of  increased news coverage of “caravans” of immigrants.

Congresswoman Escobar is all too familiar with hate crimes. Her city, El Paso, experienced the worst mass killing of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in modern day history- the El Paso Walmart mass shooting in August 2019.

The El Paso killer, Patrick Crusius, 21, was driven by hatred and white supremacy. He drove hundreds of miles to the Walmart to shoot and kill 23 people at the store. He falsely claimed there was an “Hispanic invasion of Texas,” echoing the anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant rhetoric by Donald Trump. More than 2,000 Facebook ads from Trump’s re-election campaign amplified his message by using the word invasion.

Around 20 minutes before the El Paso massacre began he posted a racist, anti-immigrant manifesto online on the site 8chan that he titled, “The Inconvenient Truth.” Crusius was charged on 90 counts of federal hate crimes.

Latinos also were most of the victims of a mass shooting in Orlando in June  2016  at the Pulse nightclub. Most of the 49 people killed in the Orlando shooting were Latino, LGBTQ or both.

In this latest shooting, one of the suspects, Mike Sheppard, reportedly worked as a warden at the West Texas Detention Center. The center has been the subject of allegations of violence against detainees from Africa, according to The Intercept. They experienced beatings, racial taunts and sexual abuse at the hands of staff when Sheppard was the warden.

The shooting story changed  when interviewed by law enforcement. “Mark Sheppard initially told us that he was never in the location where the shooting occurred. He later changed his story and admitted that he and Michael Sheppard, his brother, were together on the evening of September 27, 2022,” according to the affidavit.

They also claimed they were hunting animals. “They (said they) were looking for ducks, then changed it to birds and then to Javelina’s,” they told law enforcement.

“Mark Sheppard told us he asked Michael Sheppard something to the effect of, “did you get him?”. Mark Sheppard then changed “him” to “it”,”  according  to the affidavit.

Thus far, the two Sheppard brothers have only been charged with manslaughter. This lesser charge is unacceptable. This case is reprehensible and the men should be charged with murder and hate crimes.