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2007-12-05

FBI Statistics Show Anti-Latino Hate Crimes on the Rise

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New FBI statistics suggest anti-Latino hate crimes have risen by almost 35 percent since 2003. In California — the state with the largest number of Latinos — the number of hate crimes against Latinos have almost doubled. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the violence engulfing Latinos is part of a backlash over the immigration debate in this country. We speak with Mark Potok of the SPLC. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: New FBI statistics suggest anti-Latino hate crimes have risen by almost 35% since 2003. In California, the state with the largest number of Latinos, the number of hate crimes against Latinos have almost doubled.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the violence engulfing Latinos is part of a backlash over the immigration debate in this country. For years, the Southern Poverty Law Center has been tracking examples of physical and psychological violence waged against Latinos.

Mark Potok joins us now from Montgomery, Alabama, editor of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s quarterly Intelligence Report, which monitors hate groups in the US.

Thanks for joining us, Mark. What have you found?

MARK POTOK: Thanks for having me, Amy.

Well, basically, it’s an anecdotal report. The FBI statistics, like all hate crimes statistics, are extremely shaky. But the direction that things are going in is obvious. I mean, what we did was essentially compile a list of horrors, stories about, you know, a teenager in Houston being sodomized with an umbrella patio pole in an anti-immigrant attack; you know, a kid attacked at a fair by the Klan in Kentucky; you know, another teenager, a Latino teen, chased around a room in Long Island by neo-Nazis with a running chainsaw, saying, you know, “This is how you run for the border.” And these crimes also include a great many people who aren’t affiliated with any kind of hate group or anything like that.

So, really, the point of our report, really, the cover story in our forthcoming Intelligence Report, is that the country seems to be awash in these kinds of crimes. And I would say, beyond that, that these crimes, I think, are clearly the outcome of the kind of rancid political debate that you’ve been talking about on your show and in fact were talking about with Lou Dobbs yesterday.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I actually wanted to turn to an excerpt of the conversation that we had yesterday with CNN anchor Lou Dobbs. During yesterday’s broadcast, we played this report from Lou Dobbs’s show, Lou Dobbs Tonight, about former Mexican President Vicente Fox’s May 2006 visit to the United States.

    CASEY WIAN:

    This Mexican military incursion was fully authorized: a Mexican air force jet carrying President Vicente Fox, who was not just invited to Utah, but encouraged to visit by Governor John Huntsman.

    PRESIDENT VICENTE FOX: We fully support the businessmen from Utah and Mexico…

    CASEY WIAN: It’s estimated Utah has about 100,000 illegal aliens, and the number is growing rapidly. Utah is also a part of the territory some militant Latino activists refer to as Aztlan, the portion of the Southwest United States they claim rightfully belongs to Mexico.

    You could call this the Vicente Fox Aztlan tour, since the three states he’ll visit—Utah, Washington, and California—are all part of some radical group’s vision of the mythical indigenous homeland, Lou.

    LOU DOBBS:

    Casey, thank you very much.


AMY GOODMAN: After we played this clip for Lou Dobbs, we pointed out the Southern Poverty Law Center criticized CNN for airing that report, in part because it featured a map of the United States highlighting the seven Southwestern states that Mexico supposedly covets and calls Aztlan. The map was prominently sourced to the Council of Conservative Citizens, which is considered by many to be a white supremacist hate group. We asked Lou Dobbs for his response.

    LOU DOBBS: I mean, we weren’t hiding anything. We had no idea what they were. The field producer who used it went on the web, pulled—did a “grab,” as it’s called, and put it up. And she was suspended for a day for doing so.

    Did you guys know that we have sent our producers and our reporters down to the Southern Poverty Law Center years ago to make certain this sort of thing doesn’t happen? That’s how seriously we take the issue. And for you to talk about the incursion, you forgot to point out that that was coming out of rather jocular discussion of the incursions by Mexican forces along the border and the response of the US government.

    JUAN GONZALEZ:

    But—

    LOU DOBBS:

    And, I mean, are you offended?

    AMY GOODMAN:

    Lou, did you say you have no idea what the Council of Conservative Citizens is?

    LOU DOBBS:

    Did I say I don’t?

    AMY GOODMAN:

    Yes.

    LOU DOBBS:

    I certainly do now. Absolutely. What did I—you didn’t hear what I just said?

    AMY GOODMAN:

    I just want to—

    LOU DOBBS:

    They’re acknowledged as a hate group. Absolutely.

    JUAN GONZALEZ:

    See, but the problem, this—

    LOU DOBBS:

    What is the problem here?

    JUAN GONZALEZ:

    Projecting the image to your viewers that there’s a Mexican desire to reconquer, the Reconquista of the Southwestern United States, does create images—and especially in people who are not necessarily as intelligent as you necessarily or who have studied as much as you have—

    LOU DOBBS:

    Thank you for conceding that.

    JUAN GONZALEZ:

    —that the country is under siege.

    LOU DOBBS:

    My god, are you so self-important that you don’t think people have a sense of humor when Casey Wian says this is an authorized incursion by the Mexican government? You don’t think people have a sense of humor about that? The reality is, I think most people do. The other thing is, who are you trying to protect America from? I’m a little confused, because the reality is that there is a strong radical group of Reconquistas and Aztlan aficionados, and I have had them demonstrating against me in a couple of cities over the past few weeks. Don’t sit here being disingenuous—

    JUAN GONZALEZ:

    I’m not.

    LOU DOBBS:

    —and sanctimonious, because, let me tell you something—

    JUAN GONZALEZ:

    I’m not being disingenuous.

    LOU DOBBS: —there are many idiots on either extreme of this debate, and don’t kid yourself—

    AMY GOODMAN:

    But, Lou, I think what’s important here—

    LOU DOBBS:

    —and you know it.

    AMY GOODMAN:

    —once again, is the pattern. It’s the pattern—

    LOU DOBBS:

    The pattern—come on, please.

    AMY GOODMAN:

    No, let me make my point, because what I talk about is facts.

    LOU DOBBS:

    OK, let’s look at the pattern. The pattern is, for five years, we’ve been reporting on illegal immigration. The pattern is that we have been reporting on the impact of illegal immigration. It doesn’t suit your partisan views—and that’s understandable—or your ideological views. But don’t get carried away with yourselves, for crying out loud!

    AMY GOODMAN:

    OK, Lou, let’s talk about some of the guests you’ve had on your show.

    LOU DOBBS:

    Sure.

    AMY GOODMAN:

    For example, Barbara Coe, leader of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform,—

    LOU DOBBS:

    She’s not a guest. You’re reading from the Southern Poverty Law Center—

    AMY GOODMAN:

    —quoted—just one second—

    LOU DOBBS:

    She was not a guest.

    AMY GOODMAN:

    I am going to look at the—as you said, you actually felt that the Southern Poverty Law Center was so important—

    LOU DOBBS:

    It’s a joke.

    AMY GOODMAN:

    —in getting information—

    LOU DOBBS:

    It’s a joke.

    AMY GOODMAN:

    —that you sent your producers down there to get information so that you wouldn’t represent hate groups on the air.

    LOU DOBBS:

    In their responses, they’re nothing but a fundraising organization—

    AMY GOODMAN:

    So let me—

    LOU DOBBS:

    —and they’re indulging in pure BS.

    AMY GOODMAN:

    OK. Now, let me just—

    LOU DOBBS:

    And so are you, when you quote them.


AMY GOODMAN: That was Lou Dobbs on our broadcast yesterday. Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, your response?

MARK POTOK: Well, I mean, I guess I find it amusing that Lou first cites us as an authority to show that he looks into the allegations of racism seriously and then says we’re nothing but a fundraising operation that cranks out a lot of "BS," as he says. He has also called us, on the air, a fascist organization for what we’ve said about this.

Look, I mean, the real point is the point you made: this is a part of a pattern. It’s not that his producer happened to accidentally grab this particular graphic; it’s what that represents, that Dobbs is really pushing these completely bogus ideas, racist conspiracy theories.

It’s worth saying that in addition to the Reconquista theory, the Aztlan theory, he has pushed very heavily the idea that there is a North American Union, an entity which is planned by Bush and other neoconservatives, which would merge the countries of Canada, Mexico and the United States. He has pushed this on his website, with polls asking people are they concerned. He has mentioned it repeatedly on the air. At this point, eighteen state legislatures have passed resolutions condemning the so-called North American Union. One small problem: there is no such thing. This is a figment of the imaginations of people on the radical right. The theory essentially comes from the John Birch Society and related kinds of organizations. You know, it’s utterly bogus. But it’s the same idea as the Aztlan theory. The Mexicans, the Canadians, in this case, are out to do us in.

AMY GOODMAN: And how the Minutemen tie into this, if they do, Mark Potok?

MARK POTOK: Well, the Minutemen, in a lot of ways, and the vigilante groups, in general, have been transmitters of theories like this. You know, the Aztlan theory, for instance, was pushed very heavily early on by a hate group called American Border Patrol. This idea that Mexico and native-born Chicanos in the United States were involved together in this plot then made its way out into the Minutemen groups and eventually landed on Lou Dobbs, on any number of AM radio shows. It’s been talked about by US congressmen. And so, it’s become a part of this debate, and yet it has nothing to do with what’s actually going on.

And this is really the point we’ve tried to make with Dobbs, is that, you know, you are not contributing in any way; you are detracting from any kind of democratic discussion of immigration. I think it’s obvious that immigration is not only an issue, but a problem, something that must be dealt with, that, you know, people in a democracy have every right to debate. But when the debate becomes about, you know, they are bringing leprosy, they are coming here to rape our children, they are destroying the economy, they’re wrecking the culture, they’re more loyal to the Catholic Church than they are to our government, and so on, one is poisoning the debate.

AMY GOODMAN: Mark Potok, I want to thank you for being with us, editor of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s quarterly Intelligence Report, which focuses on far-right hate groups in the United States.

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