Political Focus on Immigration Raising Hate Crimes, Discrimination Against Hispanics

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A disgusting corollary to the anti-illegal immigration zeal gripping our national debate (and the minds of many Republican voters) is increased discrimination and hate crimes against Hispanics, both legal and illegal.

From a very good Washington Post op-ed on “nativist ferocity”:

It’s a fair guess that this cruel campaign of immigrant-bashing will eventually turn toxic for the Republican Party itself, whose own strategists (Karl Rove, among others) have long grasped the growing electoral clout of Hispanics. Those Hispanic voters, native-born or not, are anxious and angry about the intensifying nativist zeal in political rhetoric, which many are rightly blaming on the Republicans. In a new survey by the Pew Hispanic Center, half of all Hispanics in America reported that the debate on immigration has had a specific negative impact on their lives; 41 percent said that they or someone close to them had suffered discrimination in the past five years — up from 31 percent in 2002.

The new data undercut the Republicans’ frequent protestations that their targets are not legal immigrants but illegal ones. The attacks have become so venomous, and the policy proposals so pernicious, that, predictably, they have caused collateral damage among Spanish-speaking and non-native-born people generally. The anti-illegal-immigrant crowd would have us believe it honors and admires legal immigrants; in fact, it is making America a less hospitable place for them.

Much more after the jump…

[snip]

Virtually all the presidential candidates now tip their hats to tougher enforcement of existing laws, with the Democrats generally differentiating themselves by saying or hinting that illegal immigrants might subsequently be offered a shot at legalization. But in Congress, some Democrats, mostly from red or purple states and wary of being attacked as insufficiently fierce on illegal immigration, are also going the enforcement-only route…

…the rhetorical excess that has accompanied the proposals, and the suggestions that millions of people might be expelled or hounded from the country, not only respond to popular disquiet; they also whip it up. According to the latest FBI statistics, from 2006, hate crimes against Hispanics had increased by more than a third since 2003.

The most fervent anti-illegal immigrant crusaders are often the ones who go to the greatest lengths to insist they are neither racist nor unhappy with legal immigrants. They often say that it precisely because legal immigrants traverse such a difficult path to this country that we should boot those who take short cuts. (There are exceptions—some just don’t want immigrants, period.) But their rhetoric is making American hostile to people of a different color, regardless of technical distinctions. They are xenophobic and nativist in effect, if not in intent.

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