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Claudia Yoli Ferla in El Paso

It’s time for gun reform for all Texans

After the senseless El Paso shooting, my community comes together.

Ahead of the meeting of the Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety in El Paso on Oct. 21, our community must advocate for gun reform. 

For the first time since the cameras left the city, our people will have the opportunity to speak directly to the state lawmakers that can and should prioritize legislation that has been proven to keep us safe. 

Coming to El Paso

When my mother and I first came to the United States, we were embraced by a community like no other: El Paso, home to desert mountains, mystic sunsets, and vibrant border culture. 

I remember making my first friend in America in the playground of an elementary school where your immigration status, your broken English, and the color of your skin didn’t matter. A school where so many of us felt safe; welcomed by binational students, bilingual teachers, and bicultural classrooms. 

And as my mother and I embraced this new country like ours, it was El Paso that helped her raise me. It was the community’s sisterly bond with Ciudad Juarez that taught us to care and love our neighbors. It was the scenic drives that allowed us to find a world, a community, and a family beyond borders. 

Hate has no place here.

But for too long, our binational community has been plagued by hateful and conflated policies that have separated our families, have militarized our community, and have gone as far as putting immigrant women, men, and children seeking a better life in cages. 

Most recently, our community was rocked to its core by a mass shooting that tragically ended 22 lives. This manifestation of hate exemplifies the darkness that has been repeated over and over by the occupant of the Oval Office and our state’s leadership.  Make no mistake. This was not an isolated attack on our community. 

This was domestic terrorism; a targeted act of violence by a white nationalist fueled by Trump’s anti-immigrant and racist agenda. He has demonstrated he is an irresponsible “president” who continues to put our country’s safety in jeopardy, and whose refusal to accept how his dehumanizing rhetoric is normalizing violence against immigrants.

But in the midst of hate, El Paso chooses to embrace love. 

I think of all of my family and friends. Of all the resilient people that make this beautiful place stronger every day. 

Mr. Sparks, a veteran who you find at almost every community meeting, constantly advocating for those who find themselves at the crossroads of service and homelessness. 

Gabriela, the Communications Director for the Border Network for Human Rights and a Dreamer like me. A social justice warrior, who despite her immigration status, fights for the rights and future of her children. It was Gabriela who stood by me the day after our last presidential election as I shared my immigration story publicly for the first time. 

My friend, David. Proud father and local elected leader, whose precinct encompasses the Walmart where the tragedy took place. Who has given his full heart to serve our binational community as a passionate advocate for the uniqueness and beauty El Paso and Juarez bring to our world. 

Mi Prima Stephanie y mi Tía Germania, que como muchos en nuestra comunidad que aunque no compartimos sangre, nos llamamos familia y fortalecemos un vínculo de solidaridad y amor. 

Samantha and Monet, two Deeds Not Words Changemakers, advocating in a world where gun violence has become the new norm. 

I mourn with you in action, El Paso. My heart feels hopeful as I see you come together, despite your pain, to take care of our community. 

It’s time for action.

The Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety will meet in El Paso on Oct. 21 and it is incumbent on all of us to take the time to talk to these legislators, allow them to see the pain in our hearts, and the love we have for our border community. 

We need your prayers, Changemakers. We need your advocacy. We need your voice. We need your action.

We need all of you to embrace El Paso. We need you to embrace Odessa, Dayton, Gilroy, Santa Fe, Parkland, and all the communities that have been tragically affected by the senseless gun violence. 

We need you to take a stand against white supremacy, toxic masculinity, and the institutionalized racism that has taken innocent lives from us. Mass shootings need to be treated like what they are — acts of domestic terrorism. 

We need as many advocates as possible to speak out at the hearing on Oct. 21 and tell the real story of our border – a story of resilience and power. 

And we need state leaders who will not shy away from passing common-sense gun reform including comprehensive background checks, closing gun loopholes, implementing extreme risk protective orders (red flag laws), banning all automatic and semi-automatic weapons, and stopping straw purchases.  

Our community deserves to feel safe, to feel whole again. Every community deserves to feel safe, to feel whole again. Texans should not have to live in fear.

I see you, El Paso. I hear you. I love you. 

Let’s work to pass common-sense gun reform, to change the future of Texas. For our communities, for our children, for our homes. 

El Paso is and will always be my home. 

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Claudia Yoli Ferla is a Dreamer and dedicated community activist born in Venezuela and raised in El Paso, TX. As the Co-Executive Director of Deeds Not Words, she advocates on behalf of young Texans everywhere looking to find their voices to affect change in their communities.