Rise in Hate Crimes Linked to Rigid Immigration Policy

14 Jul 2010 by Fausto Sicha, No Comments »

About the authors:

 Fausto Sicha has a Master’s degree in International Relations from the City University of New York.

Jeniffer Hall is a graduate student at Columbia University and specializes in Social Work.


          In the absence of federal immigration reform which would allow undocumented immigrants to gain legal status, local politicians in Long Island and Arizona have not only tolerated hate crimes but also promoted policies which harm undocumented immigrants. These actions, combined with popular discontent about economic and demographic changes in the country, have increased the number of hate crimes against Hispanics. This article demonstrates such increase, and argues that immigration reform is needed to reduce the current climate of violence and impunity.
            According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 7,783 hate crimes were reported in 2008, 894 of which were motivated by ethnicity and/or nationality.   Reports published by the FBI indicate that hate crimes against the Latino immigrant population grew by 40% from 426 cases in 2003 to 595 in 2008. That means that every two days on average, three Latinos in this country are victims of hate crime.  However, due to their immigration status, immigrants are hesitant to report these crimes for fear of being deported; as a result, perpetrators of hate crimes go unpunished. It is estimated that up to 56% of hate crimes are not reported even though 84% of them involve violence. 
            As if these hardships were not enough, it seems that in the near future things will get worse for Latino immigrants due to rising anti-immigrant and extremist groups. The number of known anti-immigrant groups in the United States grew from 173 in 2008 to 309 in 2009. That is 80% growth in one year. The number of extremist organizations also grew 244%, from 149 in 2008 to 512 in 2009. The Department of Homeland Security recognizes that these groups have the potential to incite violence against Latino immigrants. But that is already true.  It has been repeatedly shown that anti-immigrant and extremist groups are becoming more violent against this population. This increase in violence is due to the mistaken perception that undocumented immigrants do not pay taxes, receive government assistance and take jobs away from citizens of this country. But the truth speaks for itself. According to an article published by the American Bar Association, 74% of economists argue that undocumented immigrants have had a positive impact in the U.S. economy. The Congressional Budget Office confirms the aforementioned argument, estimating that 50-70% of undocumented immigrants pay state and federal taxes, and that they contribute with $7 billion towards Social Security every year.

          To reduce the current wave of violence, stop the growth of anti-immigrant groups, regain the immigrant population’s trust in the police, and punish perpetrators of hate crimes, it is necessary that the government begin to promote reform of immigration laws. Such action would bring multiple benefits. First, immigration reform will improve security in the nation. Police officers around the country have expressed that the lack of immigration reform creates obstacles to the effectiveness of their work because undocumented immigrants victims of hate crime do not report these incidents to the authorities for fear of being deported. There is no doubt then that the regulation of the legal status of immigrants would encourage them to report hate crimes because they will not be afraid to be detained or face legal challenges. The greater the number of criminals in prisons, the better the security in the nation. Second, immigration reform will bring more confidence in the police. In Suffolk County, Long Island, after the death of an Ecuadorean immigrant victim of hate crime, police began listening to the concerns of the Latino population more closely and working to gain their trust. As a result, eight of nine robberies and hate crimes perpetrated against Latinos in a period of four months were reported to the police in that county. When undocumented immigrants obtain legal status, their collaboration with the police is expected to increase, as they will not be afraid to freely denounce any crime. Third, immigration reform will reduce impunity. Today more than half of hate crimes are not reported to the police; this means that perpetrators of these crimes still roam the streets in search of new victims. When immigrants feel no fear of reporting these crimes the weight of the law will fall on these criminals and the country will continue to be seen as a symbol of freedom where the law is applied without discrimination. 
                Hostility towards immigrants goes against what this country stands for. This growing social problem is affecting immigrants and non-immigrants alike. Before things get worse the government needs to pass an immigration reform to stop the violence.

Mark Potok, “Rage on the Right,” Souther Poverty Law Center, Spring 2010, No. 137, http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2010/spring/rage-on-the-right

“Hate Crime Statistics, 2008,” U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, November 2009, http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2008/abouthcs.html

 “As Hate Crime Rise, Police Chiefs Call Immigration System an Obstacle to Prosecution,” Feet in 2 Worlds, http://news.feetintwoworlds.org/2009/06/18/as-hate-crimes-rise-police-chiefs-call-immigration-system-an-obstacle-to-prosecution/

Clarissa Martinez, “Think Latinos are ambivalent about immigration?” Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oew-martinez5-2009feb05,0,5609773.story

Mark Potok, “Anti-Latino Hate Crimes Rise for Fourth Year in a Row,” Southern Poverty Law Center, October 29, 2009. (See note one)

Gail Zoppo, “Anti-Immigration Hate Groups Surging, Reports SPLC,” http://www.diversityinc.com/article/7236/AntiImmigration-Hate-Groups-Surging-Reports-SPLC/

“Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” U.S. Department of Homeland Security, April 2007, http://www.fas.org/irp/eprint/rightwing.pdf

Francine J. Lipman, “Taxin Undocumented Immigrants: Separate, Unequal and Without Representation,” Harvard Latino Law Review No. 06-20, Spring 2006, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=881584

See note 3.

Alex DiBranco, “How’s the Climate of Hate Doing in Long Island?” http://immigration.change.org/blog/view/hows_the_climate_of_hate_doing_in_long_island

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