Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The rise of hate

San Francisco

December 1, 7:55 PM
by Wilfredo Rodriguez-Padilla

In this day and age, the anti-immigration movement continues to gain momentum in the United States and xenophobia continues to rise with it. As our beloved economy continues to collapse into a big mess, more people are joining the ranks of Lou Dobbs and Mark Krikorian in blaming immigrants (not just illegal immigrants) for all our problems.

Some folks passionately share horror stories about the demise of a community because of the sudden influx of immigrants while others outline detailed arguments against immigration that can be very persuasive (but deceiving) given the current situation. The consequence of such a narrow minded approach is beginning to reveal its ugly head in towns and cities across America.

Take for example the case of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant, stabbed to death by a high school star athlete. The New York Times reported that "after drinking in a park in the Long Island hamlet of Medford, Mr. Conroy, 17, and six other teenagers declared that they were going to attack 'a Mexican'." The incident gained national attention because it was labeled a hate crime and because many in the community insisted it was part of a larger nationwide trend.

Unfortunately, the allegations made by Latinos in Long Island have solid data behind them. The Intelligence Report from The Souther Poverty Law Center stated that: "according to hate crime statistics published annually by the FBI, anti-Latino hate crimes rose by almost 35% between 2003 and 2006, the latest year for which statistics are available,". Hispanics are not the only group suffering from this growing intolerance. Asian Pacific, Middle Eastern and African communities have seen a huge increase in property damage and intimidation within the past ten years.

Hostility against immigrants is by no means a new phenomenon. Historians are quick to remind us of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act that barred Chinese laborers from entering the country. They claimed the group did not assimilate well into our culture and were taking jobs away from Americans. Sounds familiar? Their main points echo those of today's anti-immigration movement, including proposed legislation similar to that of the late nineteenth century.

That said, people against immigration aren't always racists or xenophobes and they do have legitimate claims. However, those positions are used by extremists to mask hate and bigotry. Disregarding and excluding the anti-immigration groups from the debate would give credence to those undesirable factions and further fuel the racial tensions. The key is to be respectful and mindful of the real dangers associated with extreme positions.

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