Sunday, December 21, 2008

Anti-Immigrant Fervor & Hate Crimes

Anti-Immigrant political cartoon from the early 1900s, scape-goating immigrants (Eastern and Southern Europeans and Jews) as harbingers of disease, poverty and anarchy.

In the small Pennsylvania town of Shenandoah this past July, four teenagers beat to death Luis Ramiriz, a Mexican immigrant as they hurled racial taunts. After the teens beat Ramirez, one of them warned an eyewitness, “Tell your Mexican friends to get out of Shenandoah, or you’ll be laying next to him.” Arriving for what she thought would be a job interview, an undocumented worker was met by four men who took turns raping her. If she went to the authorities, they warned, they would have her deported. And just over a week ago, Ecuadorean immigrant Jose Sucuzhanay was walking in New York with his brother when they were attacked by assailants yelling anti-gay and anti-Latino slurs. Jose, a 31-year-old real estate agent, was beaten with an aluminum baseball bat. He died after five days in a coma.

Immigrant hate crimes are nothing new in our history. Whether it was attacks on the Irish in Northern cities, or those same Irish attacking black migrants from the South, scapegoating and violence against immigrants is ingrained in the American psyche. And, as is usually the case, documented or undocumented ("legal or illegal") disappears in a fog of ethno-phobia, where anyone who looks the part becomes prey. No one stops and asks for papers before the attacks commence, which reveals the oft-ignored aspect of anti-immigrant fervor--a distinct racial bias that can quickly escalate into hatred.

The reality is that in a society where immigration nearly always becomes tied to race, where hatred is whipped up into fear and scapegoating, and where media pundits base their ratings on nationalist rhetoric, these types of crimes are an almost inevitable outcome. The ugly truth is, as the editorial staff of La Prensa writes, "Hate does not emerge in a vacuum."

Related articles below.

Anti-Immigrant Fervor Translates to Terror for Women

Melissa Nalani Ross examines the harsh impact punitive immigration laws are having on women.

Railroading Immigrants

Kevin Bacon examines the repercussions, both legal and social, of the criminalization of immigration laws.

Why Is Lou Dobbs Minimizing the Impact of Hate Crimes?

Heidi Beirich of SPLC's Hate Watch, examines the role of media in anti-immigrant fervor and hate crimes.

Immigration Crack-Downs: A Little Bit of History Repeating

Edmundo Rocha of examines the all-too familiar legacy of American anti-immigration policy.

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