Anti-immigrant hate rhetoric and racist violence
Even as millions of people demonstrated across the U.S. Monday to call for amnesty for the nation's 11 million undocumented workers, other events have shed more heat than light and turned into boisterous anti-immigrant gatherings where violence against immigrants has become a rallying cry
ANTI-IMMIGRANT HATE RHETORIC AND RACIST VIOLENCE
On April 28th the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), issued the following press release:
In a meeting today with U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Janet Murguía, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S., asked for a Justice Department review into the brutal beating and sexual assault of David Ritcheson, a 16-year-old Hispanic resident of Houston, Texas. Ritcheson remains in extremely critical condition at a Houston-area hospital.
“Under any circumstances, this is a horrific and tragic crime. That the young man’s ethnicity may have played a role in the severity and savagery of the assault is appalling and unbelievable,” stated Murguía.
“Today we urged Attorney General Gonzales to use the full authority of the Department of Justice to look into this matter, and we very much appreciate that he agreed to do so. We also pledged to him that NCLR would do whatever it could to assist in this effort,” concluded Murguía.
In a case that's garnering national attention, the 17-year-old victim clings to life at Memorial Hermann Hospital while the two young men are in the Harris County Jail — charged with aggravated sexual assault after prosecutors accused them of beating and sodomizing him with a pipe because they thought he tried to kiss a 12-year-old white girl.
This hate crime did not just fall from the sky.
Earlier in April anti-Mexican slogans were scrawled on the sides of a San Diego area Mexican restaurant and the restaurant was set ablaze.
Last week came news that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante have been receiving death threats.
Last October a Sacramento, California man and two other suspects were arrested and charged with allegedly attacking and injuring six people in a hate-crime spree at two local parties. The perpetrators were charged with using brass knuckles after shouting epithets against Hispanics and proclaiming "white pride" at a party.
Read the excellent reportage below to get an idea of where it came from...and the growing anti-immigrant bigotry being promoted from the far right (and the not so far right).
The following piece is from our friend Bill Berkowitz and first appeared on Inter Press Service News Agency.
Amid Solidarity, "Nativists" Grow More Violent
OAKLAND, California, May 2 (IPS) - Even as millions of people demonstrated across the U.S. Monday to call for amnesty for the nation's 11 million undocumented workers, other events have shed more heat than light and turned into boisterous anti-immigrant gatherings where violence against immigrants has become a rallying cry.
On Apr. 27 -- four days before a mass movement that includes undocumented workers, legal immigrants and U.S. citizens refused to go to work or school in observation of the "Great American Boycott" -- more than 1,000 people attended an anti-immigrant meeting called "Demagnetise America" in Franklin, Tennessee.
Those in attendance heard Nashville radio talk show host Phil Valentine say that he thought that U.S. Border Patrol Agents should consider shooting undocumented immigrants as they come across the border.
According to the news story posted at the website of the Centre for New Community's Building Democracy Initiative, Susan Tully, the national field director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) -- present at the event -- "chuckled at the idea, while the large crowd erupted into applause".
The meeting was hosted by Valentine and broadcast over SuperTalk 99.7 WTN radio.
Devin Burghart, an expert on nativism at the Chicago, Illinois-based civil rights organisation, told IPS that the Centre for New Community "was the first organisation to report on Valentine's shooting remark".
According to Burghart, the centre has received a number of reports of veiled threats of violence coming from radio talk show hosts in other parts of the country as well.
"In early March, Brian James, a fill-in talk radio show host with Phoenix AM radio station KFYI, suggested on the air that a solution to the immigration problem in Arizona would be to kill undocumented immigrants as they cross the border. 'What we'll do is randomly pick one night every week where we will kill whoever crosses the border,' James said in the broadcast. 'Step over there and you die. You get to decide whether it's your lucky night or not. I think that would be more fun.'"
Burghart pointed out that "James said that he'd be 'happy to sit there with my high-powered rifle and my night scope' and kill people as the cross the border. He also suggested that the National Guard shoot illegal immigrants and receive '100 dollars a head.'"
Even worse than the increasingly violent rhetoric is the marked increase in violent incidents, most recently exemplified by "the brutal attack in the Houston suburb of Spring, Texas, where two white power skinheads attacked a 16-year-old Latino, brutally sexually assaulting him with a PVC pipe, and stomping his head with their boots while cursing him as being a Mexican," Burghart said.
Recently, two civil rights organisations, the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC) and the Anti-Defamation League, issued reports documenting the rise in both violence and the threat of violence against undocumented immigrants.
The SPLC recently reported that Laine Lawless of the anti-immigrant group, the Border Guardians, has repeatedly called for violence against undocumented workers.
An e-mail dated Apr. 3 and sent to Mark Martin, commander of the Western Ohio unit of the National Socialist Movement, was titled, ''How to GET RID OF THEM!''
According to SPLC's report, Lawless, who was an original member of Chris Simcox's vigilante militia before it became the Minuteman Project in early 2005, suggested a number of ways to harass and terrorise undocumented immigrants, including robbery and ''beating up illegals'' as they leave their workplace.
''Make every illegal alien feel the heat of being a person without status... I hear the rednecks in the South are beating up illegals as the textile mills have closed. Use your imagination,'' Lawless wrote.
''Discourage Spanish-speaking children from going to school. Be creative,'' she said.
''Create an anonymous propaganda campaign warning that any further illegal immigrants will be shot, maimed or seriously messed-up upon crossing the border. This should be fairly easy to do, considering the hysteria of the Spanish language press, and how they view the Minutemen as 'racists and vigilantes.'''
In the e-mail, Lawless urged her followers to ''Make every illegal alien feel the heat of being a person without status ... I hear the rednecks in the South are beating up illegals as the textile mills have closed. Use your imagination.''
Lawless also suggested that Spanish-speaking children should be "discouraged" from going to school.
In its report entitled "Extremists Declare 'Open Season' on Immigrants: Hispanics Target of Incitement and Violence", the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) examines "how white supremacists, racist skinheads and others identifying with far-right extremist groups are using the national debate over immigration reform as a means to encourage likeminded racists to speak out, or even commit violent acts against immigrants".
"This report reminds us that there is a direct connection between the national policy debate and the atmosphere surrounding the daily lives of immigrants," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director.
"Extremist groups are seeking to exploit the flow of foreign workers into this country to spread a message of xenophobia, to promote hateful stereotypes and to incite bigotry and violence against Hispanics, regardless of their status as citizens."
While the overwrought Phil Valentine and Brian James, and a handful of neo-Nazi groups have openly advocated violence against the undocumented, anti-immigrant politicos and several cable news television personalities have contributed to the increasingly toxic climate.
On Apr. 24, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a longtime media watchdog group, issued a press release pointing out that anti-immigrant fervour was being stirred up on a regular basis by Lou Dobbs, the host of CNN's nightly programme "Lou Dobbs Tonight."
FAIR pointed out that "Dobbs' tone on immigration is consistently alarmist; he warns his viewers of Mexican immigrants who see themselves as an 'army of invaders' intent upon re-annexing parts of the Southwestern U.S. to Mexico, announces that 'illegal alien smugglers and drug traffickers are on the verge of ruining some of our national treasures,' and declares that 'the invasion of illegal aliens is threatening the health of many Americans' through 'deadly imports' of diseases like leprosy and malaria."
Jack Cafferty, a CNN personality who contributes to the afternoon programme "The Situation Room," "has attacked and belittled immigrants' rights protesters while ignoring or dismissing their concerns several times in recent weeks."
When asked about the increase in violent rhetoric and incidents against undocumented immigrants, Burghart said that, "Unable to muster even a fraction of the numbers that immigrant rights supporters have turned out, and fearful that Congress will pass some form of a 'guest worker' programme, the ramp up of these calls to violence is symptomatic of a nativist movement that has grown increasingly desperate and ever more radical."
"This new nativism is grounded in violence: from the hysterical 'invasion' and 'civil war' rhetoric, to the racist 'reconquista' conspiracy theories, to the dehumanising of immigrants, to the calls to form militias to 'round up' immigrants and worse. It's always been there, the current context has just pushed that violent undercurrent to the surface."
*Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His WorkingForChange column "Conservative Watch" documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the U.S. Right.