We can stop the hate, leaders say

National civil rights groups held a press conference Nov. 24 condemning the rise of hate crimes against immigrants and communities of color during and since the presidential election.

Marcelo Lucero, originally from Ecuador was living in Suffolk County, Long Island, where he was fatally beaten and stabbed to death for being Latino by a group of young men who wanted to attack a “Mexican.”

“We want to express our alarm over the rise of hate crimes on our communities,” said Janet Murguía, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza. “This fatal beating of a Long Island Latino man should be a wake up call for all America. Suffolk County mirrors the experience of many communities where hate, fostered on a national scale, has found a new home.”

There have been at least 100 reports of hate crimes since Election Day.

“Thankfully hate did not win in this election and we stand here today united. We marched the last two years not just for the rights of undocumented workers but for the rights of all Americans,” said Murguía.

Murguía said many of these acts are a direct outcome of the anger and hate perpetuated by the anti-immigrant rhetoric in the media.

Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League said, “We’re unified in sending the message that whenever we encounter hate crimes and racial injustice we will speak out.” Morial pointed out that hate crimes affect all communities including Asians, Jews, Arabs and African Americans.

It’s a responsibility for local, state and federal authorities to prosecute those who carry out such crimes, Morial said. “We believe that the Justice Department has to become more aggressive in prosecuting hate crimes,” he said. “As a country, we’ve come a long way, but there is still more change needed,” said Morial.

Asian American Justice Center President Karen Narasaki noted, “It is deeply disturbing to see this surge in hate crimes at a time when we should be celebrating coming together as a country and looking forward to the future.”

“The nation could rightfully celebrate the victory of electing Barack Obama as our next president,” said Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. “But we cannot close the book on the long history for equality just yet,” added Henderson. “Certainly, President-elect Obama’s election speaks volumes about how far we’ve come as a nation, but, make no mistake, it signifies hope, not a final victory over prejudice and racial hostility,” he said.

Peter Zamora, regional counsel with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said hate crimes against Latinos over the last four years have risen by 40 percent. Many young men are influenced by anti-immigrant rhetoric voices in the media including Lou Dobbs, said Zamora.

Michael Lieberman with the Anti-Defamation League agreed, saying, “There is a direct connection between the tenor of the political debate and the daily lives of immigrants in our communities. It is no accident that, as the immigration debate has demonized immigrants as ‘invaders’ who ‘poison our communities with disease and criminality,’ haters have taken matters into their own hands.”

The group cited recent FBI statistics that show hate crimes against people of color have risen steadily over the last several years. A recent report by the Southern Poverty Law Center detailing of hundreds of incidents of hate crimes, vandalism, and threats committed since Election Day was also mentioned.

Leaders at the press conference are urging Congress to move forward in passing comprehensive immigration reform as well as influence the toning down of anti-immigrant rhetoric. The civil rights groups are also planning to work together to monitor incidents of hate crimes and hate rhetoric. They are also lobbying Congress and the new Obama administration to pass the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act early next year.

For more information about how your community can combat hate crimes go to www.WeCanStopTheHate.org.

plozano@pww.org