Hispanic Christian leader pleads with political leaders to 'depoliticize' immigration after deadly El Paso shooting

Police lead shoppers to safety ater a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, U.S. August 3, 2019.(Photo: Reuters/Jorge Salgado)

A leader in the Hispanic Christian community has urged US political leaders to embrace a "fact-based approach" to immigration after 20 people were killed in a mass shooting a few miles away from the US-Mexico border.

The authorities are investigating whether the shooter who carried out the attack in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, was the same person who uploaded an anonymous white supremacist 'manifesto' to the uncensored sharing website 8chan. 

That document was reportedly uploaded minutes before the rampage at the Walmart store started and detailed plans for an attack targeting the Hispanic community. 

According to Reuters news agency, Mexico's President Manuel Lopez Obrador said three Mexicans were among the fatalities.

US President Donald Trump condemned the shooting on Twitter: "Today's shooting in El Paso, Texas, was not only tragic, it was an act of cowardice. I know that I stand with everyone in this Country to condemn today's hateful act. There are no reasons or excuses that will ever justify killing innocent people." 

He added, "Melania and I send our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the great people of Texas."

His comments triggered a backlash from Twitter users who accused him of emboldening white supremacists. 

In the wake of the shooting, the Rev Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, called on people of faith to commit to loving the "other".

"The NHCLC's community of thousands upon thousands of churches is profoundly grieving at the terror unleashed in El Paso today, terror targeting our nation's beloved Hispanic community," he said.

"We urge our political leaders, Democrat and Republican, to once-and-for-all depoliticize immigration in this country and instead embrace a fact-based approach to this and to all political questions that divide us.

"Even more importantly, we call upon people of sincere faith in every corner of our country to recommit themselves to loving the 'other' and to begin to pray with all their might that God would heal our broken land."

A 21-year-old suspect is in police custody in connection with the shooting.  Police said the suspect was a resident of the city of Allen, around 650 miles east of El Paso.

He has been named by US media as Patrick Crusius.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a call for unity after the shooting. 

"We as a state unite in support of these victims and their family members," he said. "We must do one thing today, one thing tomorrow and each and every day after this - we must unite."