Hate crimes against Hispanics down

September 04, 2001|By MARINE COLE, Special to this newspaper

WASHINGTON (MNS) — Hate crimes against Hispanics have decreased since 1997, but human rights organizations said that crimes against Mexican immigrants often are not reported.

According to the Uniform Crime Report of the FBI, anti-Hispanic hate crimes decreased by 9.4 percent between 1997 and 1999. Such crimes against Hispanics represented 6.2 percent of all hate crimes reported in 1999 when the FBI published its latest report.

Reynaldo Valencia, professor of law at St. Mary's University Law School in San Antonio, said two major incidents in 1998 alerted Americans to hate crime.

James Byrd, an African-American man, was murdered by being dragged behind a truck in Jasper, Texas, and Matthew Shepard was killed in Laramie, Wyo., because he was gay.


But "a drop does not necessarily mirror the situation," Valencia said.

It may mean that the immigrant population does not report every crime, he said. In comparison, hate crimes against African-American people in the United States decreased by 7.7 percent between 1997 and 1999, but they still represented 38 percent of the 9,301 hate crimes reported in 1999.

Anti-Jewish crimes represented 12.8 percent, while those motivated by sexual orientation represented 16 percent of all offenses.

"It's hard to put in words what the solution is for that," FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said. "We don't interpret the data."

The most common offenses against Hispanics went from intimidation in 32.8 percent of all anti-Hispanic offenses to simple assault in 25 percent and destruction, damage or vandalism in 18.2 percent.

Recently, it was reported in Long Island, N.Y., that a 29-year-old white man was found guilty in the beating of two Mexicans day laborers.

Angela Arboleda, a civil rights policy analyst for the National Council of La Raza, a Latino civil rights organization, estimated there had been about a dozen similar cases in the past six months. She said Mexican day laborers often wait in parking lots or next to malls for people to offer them work in gardening, carpentry or plumbing.

Some Mexicans are undocumented and feel threatened, as they reported to organizations like La Raza. Mexican day laborers are often harassed through slurs or physical abuse by people who work in the malls or by those seeking cheap labor, Arboleda said.

She also said most of the time such crimes are motivated by repudiation or intolerance and happened more in Arkansas, Kentucky and other states where the emergence of the Latino population was a recent phenomenon.

Organizations also noticed increasing assaults against Mexican immigrants along the Southwest border. According to an August report of the General Accounting Office on Southwest border arrests, the Santa Cruz county attorney in Arizona said crimes against illegal aliens had increased because migrants were forced to attempt entry into the United States through remote area, where criminal activity was less likely to be detected and more difficult to respond to.

He also said that such crimes were difficult to prosecute because they involved Mexican nationals harming other Mexican nationals. Mexicans immigrants often don't report such crimes either because they only speak Spanish or in the case of illegal immigrants, because they fear deportation.

"One of the big problems that have arisen at the border was that there were a lot of problems with Mexican immigrants crossing over private lands," Valencia said. "All the sudden you find ranchers experiencing crossing on their lands and they could go out there with guns."

Ranchers said they were protecting their land, while pro-immigration groups said they used too much force.

The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights denounced such crimes in a report on anti-immigration racism in the United States to be presented at the United Nations World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa, from the week.

"In 2000, a white rancher shot Eusebio de Haro to death when he asked for water in Brownsville, Texas," the report said. "The same year, ranchers on horseback shot Miguel Angel Palafox in the head near Sasabe, Ariz. where ranchers have rounded up undocumented migrants and turned them over to the Border Patrol."

The organization also said the U.S. government had failed to take action to stop private citizens from committing hate crimes against immigrants and had been complicit in perpetrating violence against immigrants.

It denounced the Immigration and Naturalization Service and especially the Border Patrol as being sometimes violent with immigrants. But the immigration service said that it did not track crime against Mexican immigrants at the Southwest border.

Its responsibility is enforcement of the law and administration of immigration benefits like naturalization.

"I got the sense that the INS has became more human," Valencia said.

La Raza officials said the organization supports revision of the hate crime law of 2000 sponsored by Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass. The revision would extend the federal role and give the Justice Department the ability to assist state and local law enforcement officials in investigating and prosecuting hate crimes. The Senate still has to vote on the bill.

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