Anti-Latino Hate Crime is Spreading, Says Report

All that political showmanship is literally costing lives.

By Jamilah King Aug 25, 2010

On the heels of a horrific anti-Muslim attack in New York City on Tuesday night, there’s new disturbing evidence that hate crimes are on the rise across the country for Latinos.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is reporting an upward tick in anti-Latino hate crimes, and apparently it’s a general trend that’s been in the works for years. Hate crimes against Latinos had already increased in each of the four years between 2003 to 2007, according to FBI statistics. After taking a slight dip last year, the trend seems to be picking up just as the national debate over immigration reform rages on.

SPLC cited some pretty startling examples. There’s the case in Maricopa County, Ariz., (home to Sheriff Joe Arpaio) where Juan Varela was killed and his brother was shot in the neck by Gary Thomas Kelley. According to the U.S. attorney’s office in Phoenix, Kelley pointed a gun at Valera and said, "Hurry up and go back to Mexico or you’re gonna die." The dead man was a third-generation, native-born American, reports SPLC.

There’s also news that since April, there have been 11 assaults on Mexicans in the Staten Island City of Port Richmond. The Los Angeles Times recently reported that there have been 26 suspected hate crimes in the city this year, and of the 11 proven assaults, all but one is considered a bias-related crime carried out by the city’s black residents against Mexicans.

The report also takes great aims to place blame for the uptick squarely on the shoulders of politicians’ whose hefty anti-immigrant talk has severely driven anti-Latino sentiment. In one notorious, Texas Republican Reps. Louie Gohmert and Debbie Riddle warned the world of "terrorist babies." Both men claimed pregnant terrorists were hatching a plan to sneak across the border and give birth to future terrorists who’d finish off a plan to "destroy our way of life." FBI Director Tom Fuentes eventually took to CNN to debunk the rumor.

"There was never a credible report–or any report, for that matter …  to indicate that there was such a plan for these ‘terror babies’ to be born," Fuentes said.

It’s clear that when it comes to the "Ground Zero mosque" debate and the furor over immigration reform, hot-headed political rhetoric has very real life and death consequences.