Dangerous intolerance (El Diario/La Prensa EDITORIAL - 3.13.08)
In this anti-immigrant climate, it is no coincidence that hate crimes against Hispanics have increased. Nativist extremism has fueled attacks against immigrants, to the point that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reports that hate crimes against Latinos increased by a shocking 35 percent from 2003 to 2006.
The Center has been documenting hate-spewing groups since 1971. While these are groups on the fringe, we know what happens when racist, homophobic or xenophobic agendas go from speech to agitation to violence—bombings of black churches, murders of gays and calls for the forced sterilization of Mexican women.
In the same three years that hate crimes against Hispanics increased, there was also a rise of nativist extremist groups. (Ironically, a few of the zealots fanning the flames of hate are themselves Latinos. SPLC included Alberto Rodriguez of Arizona and Rosanna Pulido of Illionois, both with the Federation for American Immigration Reform, in its list.)
The Center’s report underscores why Hispanics—regardless of legal status—feel more vulnerable. And the vulnerability is not only caused by extremist speech or hateful acts.
Too often, we are reporting on the profiling of Hispanic citizens by authorities across the country—from a Texas man who was deported and left homeless; a Georgia teenager testifying about an armed unidentified immigration agent barging into her home; a naturalized Latina’s home repeatedly raided in Long Island; and a congressmember calling for denying rights to “foreign” Puerto Ricans.
So far, ignorance and extremism have not been allowed to poison the presidential race. The most anti-immigrant candidates did not carry the day. But we need to remain ever vigilant against this rising tide of hate and violence.