Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Report says hate crimes against Latinos rising

March 10, 2008, 2:51AM

Report says hate crimes against Latinos rising
By DAVID CRARY / HoustonChronicle. com

NEW YORK - Anti-immigrant sentiment is fueling nationwide increases in
the number of hate groups and the number of hate crimes targeting
Latinos, a watchdog group said today.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, in a report titled The Year in Hate,
said it counted 888 hate groups in its latest tally, up from 844 in
2006 and 602 in 2000.

The most prominent of the organizations newly added to the list, the
Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, vehemently
rejected the "hate group" label, and questioned the law center's
motives. FAIR said the center was using smear tactics to boost
donations and stifle legitimate debate on immigration.

"Their banner may be 'Stop the hate' but it's really 'Stop the
debate,'" said FAIR's president, Dan Stein. "Apparently you can't even
articulate an argument for immigration reform without being smeared."

The law center's report contends there is a link between anti-immigrant
activism and the significant rise in hate crimes against Latinos in
recent years. According to the latest FBI statistics, 819 people were
victimized by anti-Latino hate crimes in 2006, compared with 595 in

"The immigration debate has turned ugly and the result has been a
growth in white supremacist hate groups and anti-Latino hate crime,"
said Mark Potok, director of the law center's Intelligence Project.
"The majority of anti-Latino hate crimes are carried out by people who
think they're attacking immigrants, and very likely undocumented

Potok said hate groups were proliferating because a growing number of
Americans were agitated by the immigration debate. He said many new
groups had appeared in the border states of California, Texas and
Arizona where illegal immigration has been a particularly volatile

Critics of the law center, including FAIR, contend that the periodic
reports on hate groups exaggerate the threat to public safety and
inflate the total by including entities that are little more than Web
sites or online chatrooms.

Potok acknowledged that some of the groups may be small and said it is
impossible for outsiders to gauge the membership of most of the groups.

Among the largest categories of hate groups, Potok said, are neo-Nazi,
white nationalist, racist skinhead and those with links to the Ku Klux

FAIR, which is frequently quoted by the media and whose officials often
have testified before Congress, advocates an end to illegal immigration
and tighter controls on legal immigration. In pursuing these goals, it
says, "there should be no favoritism toward or discrimination against
any person on the basis of race, color, or creed."

The law center said its decision to designate FAIR a hate group was
based in part on the ideology of various people who established it,
worked for it or donated to it over its nearly 30-year history. The
center has issued a detailed report outlining its allegations, although
little of that report deals with FAIR's recent activities.

The center's critique of FAIR was endorsed by a major Latino group, the
National Council of La Raza. The council's vice president for advocacy
and legislation, Cecilia Munoz, said FAIR's leaders were polished in
public forums, but represented "a very unsavory set of views."

Stein described the assertions of bigotry as "a total fantasy."

Both FAIR and law center are relatively well known in the ranks of
advocacy groups. The law center, which started as a small civil rights
group in 1971, has amassed an endowment fund totaling $200 million as
of October and it received nearly $29 million in grants and
contributions in fiscal 2007.

FAIR claims more than 250,000 members and reported more than $4 million
in contributions in 2006.

Stein, in addition to rejecting the "hate group" label, questioned the
law center's linking of anti-immigrant sentiment to the recent increase
in anti-Latino hate crimes. The data on such crimes is inexact and
prone to misinterpretation, and some of the incidents classified as
anti-Latino hate crimes involved violence between Latino gangs and
non-Latino rivals, Stein said.

The law center has listed numerous incidents not fitting that profile.
In one such assault, in February 2007, three men broke into a mobile
home in Wright City, Mo., yelling "immigration enforcement" and beat an
illegal immigrant from Mexico with a piece of lumber, according to
police reports.

In Arkansas, where the Latino population has grown rapidly, there have
been several recent violent incidents. In December, police said, a
Hispanic man was fatally beaten in Lowell, Ark., after his nephew spoke
Spanish to the assailant's girlfriend.

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The Southern Poverty Law Center

link to:

http://www.splcente r.org/index. jsp

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