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Lawmakers Slam Texas Safety Office for English-Only Uvalde Updates

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(Bloomberg) -- Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus pressed Texas officials to make all information pertaining to the elementary school shooting in Uvalde last month available in Spanish, which more than half of the town’s population speaks at home.

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In a letter sent Friday to the state’s Department of Public Safety, House Democrats Joaquin Castro, Veronica Escobar, Jesus Garcia, Raul Grijalva and Norma Torres criticized the agency for issuing most information and press briefings following the May 24 massacre, in which 19 children and two teachers died, only in English. Uvalde, located some 60 miles from the Mexican border, has a population that’s 81% Latino, with 55% of people speaking a language other than English at home.

“It is unconscionable that public safety officials are neglecting to provide critical information in Spanish to a predominately Spanish-speaking community,” the lawmakers said in the letter.

A spokesperson for the DPS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

At a May 26 press conference following the shooting, reporters can be heard asking authorities for Spanish-language updates. Several reporters in Uvalde at the time said authorities had promised a Spanish-language press conference, but that no such event materialized. The Department of Public Safety did provide information regarding a centralized resource center for affected families in both English and Spanish, a May 27 Facebook post shows.

“Especially as misinformation and inconsistencies prevail, all community members deserve clear, critical public safety updates in their preferred language,” said Torres, who represents a part of southern California. “English shouldn’t automatically be the default — especially in predominantly Latino communities like Uvalde — and residents shouldn’t be left in the dark by safety officials because of a language barrier.”

About 40 million people in the U.S. speak Spanish at home, Census data from 2020 show, making it the second-most commonly spoken language in the U.S.

“The troubling amount of disinformation and misinformation surrounding the horrific shooting at Robb Elementary and gun violence more generally needs to be countered with accurate and consistent material provided by trustworthy sources in the predominate languages of the community impacted,” said Escobar, who represents El Paso, Texas, and parts of the surrounding area.

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