Mahud Villalaz, 42, of Milwaukee gestures to the second-degree burns on his face Saturday at a news conference one day after a man threw acid at him outside a restaurant on Milwaukee's south side. He is joined by, from left, state Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, his sister, and Forward Latino leader Darryl Morin.

Hateful rhetoric breeds hateful violence.

We saw this in Milwaukee on the evening of Nov. 1, when a white man threw acid in the face of Mahud Villalaz, a U.S. citizen who was born in Peru but who has lived here for almost two decades.

As Villalaz was about to enter a Mexican restaurant, his assailant yelled at him and accused him of being here illegally and claimed he was invading the United States. Then he threw acid on Villalaz’s face, causing second-degree burns.

You don’t have to wonder where the assailant might have gotten the idea that people who look Latino are invaders, because Donald Trump has been trafficking in such vile rhetoric against Latino immigrants from the day he launched his first presidential campaign.

Since that time, Trump “has said ‘invasion’ at least 19 times” when discussing immigration, USA Today reported in August. “He has used the word ‘animal’ 34 times and the word ‘killer’ nearly three dozen times” at his rallies.

We’ve heard the echoes of this rhetoric here in Wisconsin, and now we’ve seen the results.

You can’t tell us, you can’t tell Mahud Villalaz, you can’t tell the families of the 22 people in El Paso who were slaughtered by a man who had posted an anti-immigrant screed that the ugly and bigoted words of the president of the United States don’t have an impact.

Trump is giving new meaning to the term “bully pulpit.”

And he’s tearing this country apart in the process.

Recent figures on hate crimes released by the FBI show that attacks motivated by bias or prejudice soared to 16-year high in 2018, with hate crimes against Latinos jumping 13% from 2017.

White supremacists are now marching in our streets, waving Confederate flags and even Nazi flags. They believe they have a friend in the White House.

This is toxic stuff, and it is poisoning the very essence of America.

Our country is supposed to be a place of welcome and promise, not of hatred and fear.

Our national motto is "E Pluribus Unum" — “out of many, one.” Our national motto is not “Whites Only.”

Our country is supposed to be a place that does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed or nationality. It’s not supposed to be a place where people who are demonized by the president now have targets on their backs.

No one in the United States should be afraid of being attacked simply for who they are or how they look.

This cannot be the country we’re becoming.

What happened in El Paso, and what happened to Mahud Villalaz, cannot happen again.

Matt Rothschild is the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Wisconsin state Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, represents the 8th Assembly District, home of the largest Latino population in the state.

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