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Anti-immigrant sentiment grows into nationwide hate crimes

By Charlene Muhammad | Last updated: May 16, 2006 - 3:32:00 PM

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Protesting students from across California march towards city hall in Los Angeles, Apr. 15. The march is dedicated to 14-year-old Anthony Soltero, who committed suicide after allegedly being threatened by a school official for participating in immigration protests. Photo: AP/World Wide Photos
LOS ANGELES ( - As nationwide pro-immigrant conferences, marches and rallies continue alongside the increasing debate over immigration reform legislation, anti-immigrant sentiments are transforming into hate crimes against immigrants, particularly Latinos.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently informed that some Latino officials, including California Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have received hateful death threats. The announcement came in the midst of mass, nationwide immigrant rights marches, during which millions of Latino and other immigrants saturated the streets of major U.S. cities, including L.A., Chicago, Phoenix, Houston and San Francisco.

According to news reports, an aide to Lt. Gov. Bustamante recalled that he received a postcard that read, “All you dirty Mexicans should go back to Mexico. The only good Mexican is a dead Mexican.” In response, Mayor Villaraigosa stated that such threats come with the territory. The hateful sentiments are not exclusive to political officials. On Apr. 10, the Mariachi’s Mexican Bar and Grill in San Diego was vandalized and set on fire. The act was ruled a hate crime by police.

Half-a-million people were reported in attendance for the Immigration Reform Boycott demonstration in Chicago, Illinois, one of many throughout the country. Speakers for the day included Nation of Islam Minister Ishmael Muhammad (above) and Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez (middle). Photo: Steven Muhammad
Meanwhile, in Texas, two White teenagers charged with the sexual aggravated assault of a 16-year-old Latino boy will not face hate-crime charges. According to reports, 18-year-old David Henry Tuck and 17-year-old Keith Robert Turner allegedly dragged, sodomized with a plastic pipe, poured bleach onto, and stomped and beat the Latino youth, after he tried to kiss a 12-year-old White girl. If convicted of sexual assault, the teens face five years to life in prison, or the death penalty if the youth dies.

Hate crime activists note that media images play a major role in the proliferation and implementation of violent speech and acts against ethnic groups. They point to the video game “Border Patrol” as one of the latest image impact tools used to foster hate against Latino immigrants.

“Border Patrol”—deemed a racist, flash-based video game—portrays 88 Latino men, women and children running swiftly across a small blue strip of water under the image of a gun’s telescope. The players shoot at them as they try to “cross the border” and earn high points if they successfully hit pregnant women with children.

Armando Gudino, program director at the Pacifica Network’s KPFK/90.7 FM in Hollywood, Calif., said that it is important that everybody keep in mind that political socialization through the media and the way one acquires norms of behavior and thought patterns are inevitable.

Like other media watch groups and advocates, Mr. Gudino believes that media reporting will undoubtedly have an impact on the continuing culture of violence that people perpetuate as a result of what they see. That, in turn, he stated, leads to a welcoming environment, or lack thereof, for the new generation of migrants or immigrants that continue to come to this country.

Mr. Gudino labeled “Border Patrol” unacceptable, said it should be banned, and called for criminal liability against its creators.

“It’s atrocious, blatant racism and it’s no different than the cartoon that depicted the Prophet Muhammad as they did in Europe and no different than the cartoons in slavery that depicted African Americans being lynched. It also illustrates the level of ignorance on the part of those committing these crimes and those are a reflection of the general population, which supports this kind of legislation,” Mr. Gudino added. “What’s worse is that this is an ongoing electronic media that allows people to live out these fantasies of murder and genocide against a people. They’re encouraging death and destruction.”

Related news:

President Bush Addresses the Nation on Immigration Reform ( Transcript, 05-15-2006)

Are some human beings illegal? (FCN, 04-25-2006)

The Basis Of Black-Latino Unity Is Not Political (BEC, 07-24-2001)