Sunday, February 03, 2008

Take the Hate Out of the Immigration Debate

Christine Senteno | New America Media
February 1, 2008

Editor’s Note: The FBI reports a 25 percent increase in hate crimes committed against Latinos between 2004 and 2006, with many more crimes unreported. The National Council of La Raza is now pushing for presidential candidates and the mainstream media to stop affiliating themselves with fringe anti-immigrant groups such as the Minutemen.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week the National Council of La Raza called for presidential candidates and news media networks to “take the hate out of the debate” over immigration.

The organization contends that small but vocal groups that use hate speech in the immigration debate are moving out of the fringes of American society and into mainstream media. Hate is framing the political discourse.

Civil rights advocacy groups demand that three cable news networks – FOX, MSNBC and CNN – stop using extremists as messengers for their talk shows and put an end the rhetoric of hosts such as Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck and Pat Buchanan. They are also pushing for Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee to sever his ties and renounce his endorsement of Minutemen co-founder Jim Gilchrist.

Dan Stein of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Gilchrist and Chris Simcox, co-founders of the anti-immigration group the Minutemen Project, have appeared on national cable network television at least 110 times in the past three years.

FAIR was listed as a hate group by the internationally known civil rights law firm Southern Poverty Law Center located in Montgomery, Ala. SPLC noted that FAIR often compares immigrants to bacteria, has members of white supremacist groups working for them, and has accepted more than a million dollars from the Pioneer Fund, a racist foundation devoted to proving a connection between race and IQ.

In addition to the Minutemen Project’s controversial actions to police the Southern border, Gilchrist was once videotaped at an anti-immigration rally saying he was “proud to be a vigilante.” Simcox, the group’s co-founder, was convicted in 2003 of carrying a weapon into a national park while searching for undocumented immigrants, according to SPLC.

“This is all about free speech,” Gilchrist told New America Media. “La Raza has the right to free speech. Jim Gilchrist has the right to free speech.”

NCLR President Janet Murguía explained that, because the president and Congress have failed to address the immigration issue, the debate has moved to the states and now to the presidential debates.

“This debate is no longer about substantive policy approaches. This debate is about hate,” Murguía said. “ And if letting these people get on the air unchecked isn’t bad enough, many of the network talk show hosts parrot hate speech openly and abundantly on the air.”

On June 28, CNN’s Glenn Beck jokingly offered a one-step solution to the immigration and energy crises on his radio program. He read a proposed ad for a "giant refinery" that produces "Mexinol," a fuel made from the bodies of illegal immigrants coming here from Mexico to find work.

With this type of hate speech comes an increase in hate crimes, according to NCLR Vice President Cecilia Muñoz: The FBI reports a 25 percent increase in hate crimes committed against Latinos between 2004 and 2006. The statistics do not include crimes that go unreported by undocumented immigrants who fear being deported.

On Jan. 31, the National Council of La Raza, which includes nearly 300 affiliated organizations, launched a new initiative titled "We Can Stop The Hate," in partnership with MALDEF, the Anti-Defamation League of Washington, D.C., the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Center for American Progress and Media Matters for America.

The initiative includes a campaign to educate the public about the use of hate speech and the growing rise of violence against Latinos. NCLR has already written to FOX, CNN and MSNBC network executives about extremists appearing regularly on their programming. They are also asking candidates to pledge to reject hate speech in discussions on immigration.

Latinos have the power to change the debate, says Murguía.

“Latinos buy products from the advertisers supporting these programs. Latinos vote in primaries and in the general election. We need to make it clear to those who embrace hate that they do so at their own economic and political peril,” said Murguía.

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