Anti-Immigrant Hate Crimes Rise with Hateful Political Speech

The federal trial of three Pennsylvania police officers accused of covering up the murder of an undocumented Mexican immigrant opened last week—reigniting critical discussion about the recent rise of anti-immigrant hate crimes. The officers—former Shenandoah Police Chief Matthew Nestor, Lt. William Moyer and Patrolman Jason Hayes—allegedly attempted to conceal the racially motivated nature of the 2008 murder of 25-year-old Luis Ramirez, who was brutally beaten to death in a park by a group of teenagers spouting racial slurs. At the time, Ramirez’s murder underscored a growing trend of anti-Hispanic violence in the U.S., which some attribute to increasingly anti-immigrant political rhetoric.

In recent years, hate crimes against Latinos have increased by 52 percent, a steep rise that Alternet’s Arun Gupta attributes to incessant “right-wing vituperation” and “caustic rhetoric.” In Arizona, where anti-immigrant sentiment has fomented into a bevy of retrogressive and prejudicial state policies, the number of reported hate crimes rose from 161 in 2007 to 219 in 2009. Tellingly, the recent rise in anti-Latino hate crimes runs counter to an overall decrease in reported hate crimes nationwide.

Prevalence of I-Word on television coincides with anti-immigrant hate crimes

At ColorLines, Mónica Novoa points out that a dramatic spike in the use of the word “illegals” in television programming last year coincided with both the passage of Arizona’s SB 1070 and a number of subsequent racially motivated murders:

  • In June, Juan Varela—U.S. citizen and a third-genderation Mexican American—was shot to death in Phoenix by a man shouting “You fucking Mexican, go back to Mexico!”
  • In July, Sergio Zapata-Zurita’s family was accosted at gunpoint in Washington by a man apparently obsessed with “illegal immigration.”
  • In August, Martin Reyes—a Honduran immigrant and father of six—was stabbed to death in Baltimore by a crazed man who told police that he “hated Mexicans.”

The irony here is that, while heated discourse surrounding the measure may have contributed to a rash of anti-immigrant hate crimes last year, its implementation in Arizona has inhibited the local victims of those crimes from contacting the police—for fear that, under the new law, they will be arrested for being undocumented.

Hate crimes report censored to conceal role of official’s hate speech

Some localities have taken important steps to counter the rise of anti-Latino hate crimes, but at least one of those well-meaning efforts has been undermined by the anti-immigrant Right.’s Alex DiBranco reports that, in Suffolk County, New York, one ranking official’s affinity for anti-immigrant rhetoric may have compelled him to censor a potentially damning hate crimes report. Suffolk County’s problem with anti-immigrant violence has been in the news since 2008, when the racially motivated murder of an Ecuadoran immigrant highlighted Long Island’s epidemic of racial violence. Following the incident, Suffolk County formed a Hate Crimes Task Force responsible for monitoring hate crimes in the area, and issuing reports of its findings.

But County Executive Steve Levy, who is locally notorious for his anti-immigrant rhetoric, has been accused of editing more than 50 pages from the task force’s most recent report—many of which contained substantial criticism of his administration’s handling of immigrant issues, according to Mike Clifford at the Public News Service. Noting that Levy’s critics have long attributed the rise in anti-immigrant hate crimes to his extreme position on immigration, DiBranco speculates that Levy’s drastic censorship of the report is an attempt to conceal his own role in fostering violence.

Bigotry accusations divide the Republican Party

Following the recent Tucson shooting, the tragic potential of hateful political rhetoric has come to the foreground. The issue has become so heated that it threatens to fracture the Republican Party itself. In the aftermath of the tragedy, and in light of the party’s increasingly extremist positions on immigration, certain party leaders have defected from the GOP, accusing the party of fostering racism for political ends, John Tomasic at the American Independent reports. Most recently, former Colorado Republican Muhammad Ali Hasan and former Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes have spoken out against party bigotry directed at Muslims and Latinos, prompting conservative Latino organization Somos Republicans to launch an anti-bigotry campaign against its own party.

It’s a step in the right direction. But even as a minority of Republicans takes it upon themselves to critically examine the role of the party’s extremist positions and rhetoric, the deadly impact of the party’s institutionalized bigotry nevertheless remains remarkably under-recognized—even as it continues to claim innocent lives.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint.

Photo Credit: Sarah Klockars-Clauser
by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger


LMj Sunshine
James Merit5 years ago

Sad article an comments.

LMj Sunshine
James Merit5 years ago

Sad article an comments.

Huber F.
Huber F5 years ago

Why do such henious crimes go unchalleged?

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle6 years ago


First they came for the Communists, but I didn't speak up, because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up, because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up, because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me, and by that time, no one was left to speak up.

BEWARE. YOU'RE NEXT. Stand up for your brothers and sisters. We're all in this together.

Nye S.
Nye Solover7 years ago

What if: The Native Americans had that attitude when the Colonists first landed? No papers? Get back on that ship and go home. You don't speak our language, learn it or go home. You want to WHAT? Own land, start a business, build a home, build schools for your children, get medical care...not on OUR land, you're illegal aliens/foreigners/weren't born here/don't have the same religion we do, go back where you belong!

surjit k.
surjit s7 years ago

This problem is in each and every country of the world where there are illegal immigrants and also refugees, so is no surprise when it happens here in USA.

Nina C.
Nina Council7 years ago

My comments pertain to not just Mexican, but all immigrants. My own mom was an immigrant, she loved American, and worked her way up starting with the sewing sweatshops. Americans are spoiled rotten and need to live more simply. I am For Mexican farm workers totally, there would be no agricultural foods if it were not for them. However laws must change. I believe all immigrants must make it a priority to learn the English language and must want to become a citizen. No more allowing of rich big farms to get away with hiring illegal workers as they do, this is wrong and must be punished. How about American kids going to work in the fields to learn how we get our food, would any American kids or college students really work the fields, I doubt it. What for when Mexicans can be used as slaves. Things must change

Tana Williams
Tana Williams7 years ago

This huge issue can be brought down to one thing: It is no longer acceptable to attack blacks, and so racism has moved to a new target, one totally acceptable by many in this country. Racists now have an acceptable target and so the type of violence once found in the South permeates the entire country. People feel good when theuy can say "We don't want these people here, they cost us jobs and services". I have yet to see a long line of whites lining up to pick lettuce or clean peoples' homes. Further, I live in a building that is all Hispanic, in a neighborhood that is largely Hispanic and what I see is hard working people, many of whom work 2 jobs, so they can have a slice of the American Dream. They also drive the economy because they purchase a lot of things that their hard work has allowed them to. All you have to do is live among them and you will see "they" are just like us

Glenda L.
Glenda L7 years ago

I'm shocked by the number of comments that seem to support these racist attitudes. Disappointing for a site like Care 2.

lilliam a.
lilliam a7 years ago

So far, the comments I've read, although stating the requisite "I don't support violence" line, all espouse an ignorant fear mongering attitude and an "us vs them" mentality that is the sub text to the rising tide of hate and violence. It is tragically funny to me, some of these ignorant statements and they underscore the intolerance of people who think they are self entitled to everything without regard to the fact that this country is a nation of immigrants. I wonder about the educational level of the people posting...