In 1994, I conducted a study at the US-Mexico border,sponsored by the Poverty Race Research Action Council (PRRAC, and available at the U. Arizona Mexican-American Studies Center), that found widespread abuse by federal immigration authorities against Latino immigrants and citizens along the border. The key finding, aside from the pervasiveness of abuse, was that the abuse was motivated by ethnicity–not immigration status–.
The just released report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, discussed below, highlights the dramatic increase in hate groups and crimes against Latinos. A key finding is that abuse is motivated by ethnicity– not immigration status.
In big structural ways, not much has changed, but here is what has changed since 1994.
The proliferation of hate crimes and hate groups is due, in large part, to a post-911 narrative that has been submerged within mainstream media. In addition, the narrative has helped inspire a terrific build-up in the infrastructure and resources of right wing anti-immigrant think tanks and organizations such as FAIR.
A post-911 master narrative that drives the immigration debate has shifted the debate to one about terrorism, national and homeland security. This narrative inflames the message that immigrant=terrorist. This content has proliferated with 24/7 right-wing media talking heads, billion dollar contracts to Boeing and Accenture to help make border control insidiusly invisible and for profit, and vigilante hate crimes (verbal and physical abuse against Latino immigrant and non-immigrant alike). In other words, state tentacles of abuse against Latino people of color has mestasticized from the Border Patrol and Customs into the media and public sphere, and has done so with a great deal of moneys spent to organize the effort.
Not to say there is anything new about the existence of vigilante anti-immigrant hate groups. As has occurred during times of economic and social distress in the past, we are facing an unfortunate rise in hate crimes against immigrants. But, not since early 20th century periods of nativism, has civic antipathy been so intertwined with the State, evidenced by the militarization and privatization of the border, physical and virtual walls at the border, and an incredible amount of local and state anti-immigrant ordinances. Further, 9/11 changed to narrative so as to heighten the perceived risk of immigration.
the Bush response to 9/11 fanned the technologies of hate, facilitated the spread of hate messages and crimes, abnd basically made it okay to hate immigrants again.
According to Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate groups have increased by 48% since 2000, to 888 hate groups in the US. The SPLC also reports that FBI stats suggest a 35% rise in hate crimes against latinos between 2003-2006.
According to today’s Report by the Southern Poverty Law Center,
Hate groups continue to successfully exploit the immigration debate to their advantage, even though the immigration issue has largely disappeared from the presidential debate,” said Mark Potok, editor of the SPLC’s Intelligence Report, an investigative journal that monitors the radical right. “The fact is that they’ve been aided and abetted by mainstream pundits and politicians who give these haters a platform for their propaganda.
Consider the mainstream status that the media and Congress has given to the anti-immigrant group FAIR (documented by SPLC), Lou Dobbs, Michelle Malkin, Michael Savage (sorry Dan), O’Reiley and Rush, and other talking heads who gained currency during the Bush Administration. These folks are treated as celebrities rather than as hate mongerers. Consider last Sunday’s newspaper feature of Michelle Malkin, touting her blogging celebrity and saying nothing about the hate-filled content to be found in her blogs.
The problem of anti-immigrant hatred goes well beyond discrete numbers of crimes and groups. The message has seeped into the mainstream, and this rightwing frame of immigration will be much more difficult to counter.
Moreover, few progressive alternatives to FAIR exist that can counter the hate message with hard facts, stories and a reframed narrative that suggests persuasively that immigrants are human beings and economic and social anchor.