Migrant debate spurs hate

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2Toma said he hears reports from day laborers, who complain they are being subjected to more hostility than in years past. “Increasingly, there are demonstrations set up at day-laborer sites,” Toma said. “We recall not long ago there was a `Save Our States’ Web site press release inviting people to go to a day-laborer hiring site in Redondo Beach and to bring their baseball bats.” Devin Burghart, research director at the Chicago-based Center for New Community, said there has been an increase in anti-immigrant activity as the immigration debate has has become more divisive and more polarized. “It’s an issue that has been brewing in the Los Angeles area for a number of years,” he said. “What is unfortunate is that California has become the breeding ground for many of these ideas, which trickle out to the rest of the country through anti-immigrant organizations.” Burghart said leaders from various California anti-immigrant organizations gathered in Las Vegas over Memorial Day to promote the “Reconquista” theory, the notion that there is a secret conspiracy involving the Mexican government, Catholic Church and undocumented immigrants to reclaim the American Southwest for Mexico. “To see California folks participate in an event like that, which was systematically designed to ratchet up fear and resentment toward immigration, is certainly something we have tremendous concern for,” Burghart said. Barbara Coe, founder of the Huntington Beach-based California Coalition for Immigration Reform who has been a guest on radio talk shows, dismissed the notion that illegal immigrants are being targeted for harassment. Coe, who spoke at the conference in Las Vegas, said she is merely protecting the country from “illegal alien invaders” by encouraging protests at day-laborer sites and identifying “traitor senators who are trying to abolish our nation by welcoming illegal aliens.” In a recent ADL report entitled “Extremists Declare `Open Season’ on Immigrants,” the authors wrote that white supremacists are using Internet video games, street demonstrations and other confrontational tactics to exploit the debate and spread hate. Their goal is to draw new attention to their hateful notions about minorities in hopes of making America a nation for “Whites only,” according to the ADL report. On the Internet, right-wing extremists have championed video games such as “Border Patrol,” where the aim is to shoot to kill Mexicans as they attempt to cross the border. The report noted that racist rhetoric aimed at Latino immigrants has grown to an “unprecedented” level in recent years. Although human relations officials and immigration activists say they are seeing a growing backlash against immigrants, local law enforcement officials say they haven’t noticed an increase in anti-immigrant or anti-Latino hate crimes. Officer Michael Lopez said the Los Angeles Police Department hasn’t received any reports of major anti-immigrant or anti-Latino hate crimes since the immigration debate took the national spotlight. “We had a couple of incidents involving individuals that were kind of disorderly during the marches, but those were isolated incidents,” Lopez said. Palmdale Sheriff’s Station Lt. Ed Cook said about one incident occurs each month. “Usually, it’s a road rage incident and someone yells an ethnic slur,” Cook said. “They cut somebody off, get out of the vehicle and it disintegrates into racial slurs.” But Alvaro Huerta, director of community education and advocacy at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said immigrants often don’t feel comfortable reporting incidents to the police, perhaps because of their immigration status or a lack of awareness about their rights. “It’s disturbing because what we are seeing right now in the immigrant rights movement is that they are coming out of the shadows and are feeling empowered, but when you see an increase in anti-immigrant hate crimes, you see an increase in fear again,” Huerta said. Staff Writer Rachel Uranga contributed to this story. [email protected] (213) 974-8985160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! As the national debate over immigration reform comes to a head, officials in Los Angeles County say they’re seeing a slight – though alarming – increase in slurs and racial attacks and expect the trend to continue. The latest data available showed the number of incidents in the county rose from 54 in 2003 to 60 in 2004. Numbers for 2005 will be released this summer. “Even in 2004, when all other hate crimes were declining, there was a slight rise in anti-Latino and anti-Mexican hate violence,” said Robin Toma, executive director of the county Human Relations Commission. “We were concerned at that point and raised questions whether this was indicative of anti-immigrant sentiments. “Of course, in 2005 and this year is when it’s really been reaching its peak.” last_img