In the wake the recent shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the murder of Dr. George Tiller, and continued attacks against immigrants, Attorney General Eric Holder has asked Congress for a tougher hate crimes bill.
"If there was ever a doubt about the need for this legislation, I think that has been pretty much done away with by the events that we've seen in our nation here in Washington, DC....I think the time is right, the time is now for the passage of this legislation," he said.
We couldn't agree more. The FBI reports that hate crimes against Latinos have risen 40% over the past four years. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that that the number of hate groups targeting Latinos and immigrants has increased by 54% since 2000.
These are not just statistics. People are being beaten to death simply because they are Latino. Luis Ramirez, a 25-year-old immigrant, was beaten to death in July of last year by a group of teenagers in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. One witness said that they told Ramirez's friends to get out of Shenandoah "or you're gonna to be laying effin next to him."
On November 8, 2008, in Suffolk County, New York, 37-year-old Marcelo Lucero was going to visit a friend to watch a movie when he was attacked and murdered by seven teenagers. Originally from Ecuador, he had lived in this country for 16 years. According to Suffolk County police, the defendants wanted to "beat up some Mexicans."
In December, two Ecuadorean brothers were assaulted by three men yelling anti-Latino slurs in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. One of the brothers, a business man who had lived in the U.S. for 10 years, died as a result of his injuries. The deceased, Jose Osvaldo Sucuzhanay, was the co-owner of a real estate agency in Bushwick and a native of Ecuador who had legally immigrated to the U.S.
Hate has always been present. But the recent spike in violence against immigrants is being fanned by the flames of the anger and hateful rhetoric being voiced in the debate over immigration. Words that used to be considered extreme have become mainstream and are parroted nightly by talk show hosts and elected officials alike.
Two weeks ago, the Senate Judiciary Committee held "The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009" hearing. Hate crime legislation has been working its way through Congress for more than a decade. Given the hate-filled events of the last few months we can't afford to wait any longer.