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Report Links Increase in Hate Crimes to Contentious Debate Over Immigration

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has pledged to advance legislation that would expand prosecution of bias crimes.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has pledged to advance legislation that would expand prosecution of bias crimes. (By Manuel Balce Ceneta -- Associated Press)

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By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 17, 2009

U.S. civil rights leaders said yesterday that an increase in hate crimes committed in recent years against Hispanics and people perceived to be immigrants "correlates closely" to the nation's increasingly contentious debate over immigration.

Hate crimes targeting Hispanic Americans rose 40 percent from 2003 to 2007, the most recent year for which FBI statistics are available, from 426 to 595 incidents, marking the fourth consecutive year of increases.

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund issued a report that faulted anti-immigrant rhetoric in the media and mobilization of extremist groups on the Internet. The conference said that some groups advocating for tighter immigration laws have invoked "the dehumanizing, racist stereotypes and bigotry of hate groups."

"Reasonable people will disagree . . . but the tone of discourse over comprehensive immigration reform needs to be changed, needs to be civil and sane," said Michael Lieberman, Washington counsel for the Anti-Defamation League.

The FBI reported in October that the number of hate crimes dropped in 2007 by about 1 percent, to 7,624. But violence against Latinos and gay people bucked the trend. The number of hate crimes directed at gay men and lesbians increased about 6 percent, the FBI reported.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which was criticized in the LCCREF report, said it was "another salvo against free speech by the pro-amnesty coalition . . . to delegitimize any critic of mass immigration."


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