In July of 2008, 25-year old Luis Ramirez lost his life after he was knocked unconscious and kicked in the head by a group of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania teenagers who yelled racial epithets before and during the brutal beating. In November, 37-year old Marcelo Lucero was ferociously beaten and fatally stabbed in Long Island, New York by a group of teenagers who hunted him down simply for being Latino. Only a month later, we mourned the murder in Brooklyn, New York of Jose Osvaldo Sucuzhañay, whose life was violently taken by a group of people, and whose crime, according to witnesses, was motivated by hate-filled bigotry.
In the past several years, hate crimes against Latinos have risen 40%. This is a national epidemic whose growth is spurred each day by hate speech, distortion of facts, and anti-immigrant sentiment expressed on cable shows, local radio shows and across the airwaves.
National legislation, such as the “Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act,” must be a top priority for the next Congress and the new Administration, but it is not sufficient to reach the hate that threatens to pervade local communities. This drastic rise of hate crimes against Latinos, not coincidentally, has occurred during the same years in which there has been an explosive rebirth of extremist anti-immigrant rhetoric and measures.
MALDEF calls upon national representatives, faith leaders, educators, and parents to stand up and take immediate action against this national wave of hatred. Local and federal authorities must prosecute hate crimes to the fullest extent under law. Local officials and media personalities must take responsibility for the consequences of their extremist rhetoric and should spread messages of respect and tolerance. For too long, anti-immigrant and anti-Latino messages have lead to increased bigotry and violence against Latinos and have been disseminated and promoted in the public sphere with very little fact checking. In response, MALDEF launched “Truth in Immigration” in 2008 to rebut legal and factual inaccuracies about immigrants and Latinos in the United States. Truth in Immigration examines and refutes cases where the media has made false claims on immigration, including Lou Dobbs’s false claim on immigration and leprosy and Glen Beck’s false statement that undocumented immigrants have no legal rights. MALDEF calls on all Americans to unite against this wave of hatred and defeat the intolerance and violence.