Foreign language speakers increase in US. So do hate crimes.

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A man exits the transit area after clearing immigration and customs on arrival at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, U.S., September 24, 2017. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan/Files

NEW YORK – The Trump administration is trying hard to curb immigration to the United States. But growing number of foreign language speakers make that effort seem puny, like trying to control rampaging flood waters with sand bags. But even as foreigners increase in the US, hate crimes is showing an uptick too, across the length and breadth of the country. Even more worrying is the fact that there are fewer convictions of those accused of committing such acts.

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) put out some startling facts this week, based on newly released Census Bureau data for 2018. In 1980 there were 23.6 million people who spoke a foreign language at home and 187.19 million who spoke only English at home, in the US. In 2018, those numbers swelled to 67.27 million people who spoke a foreign language at home – equal to the entire population of France – and 240.25 million who spoke only English at home.

This means that the number of foreign-language speakers increased 192 percent between 1980 and 2018, compared to a 28 percent increase for those who speak only English. It also means the number of foreign-language speakers increased 13 percent between 2010 and 2018 and the number who speak only English increased 5 percent. The figures by the Census Bureau are for individuals five years of age and older.

The figures show that in 9 states, more than one in four residents now speaks a language other than English at home. These 9 states account for two-thirds of all foreign-language speakers. In contrast, in 1980 foreign-language speakers were one in four residents in just two states (New Mexico and Hawaii); and these two states accounted for just 3 percent of all foreign language speakers.

The states with the largest share of their populations speaking a foreign language at home in 2018 were California (45 percent), Texas (36 percent), New Mexico (34 percent), New Jersey (32 percent), New York and Nevada (each 31 percent), Florida (30 percent), Arizona and Hawaii (each 28 percent), and Massachusetts (24 percent), according to CIS.

States with the largest percentage increase in those speaking a foreign language at home from 1980 to 2018 are Nevada (up 1,088 percent), Georgia (up 952 percent), North Carolina (up 802 percent), Virginia (up 488 percent), Tennessee (up 459 percent), Arkansas (up 445 percent), Washington (up 432 percent), South Carolina (up 398 percent), Florida (up 393 percent), Utah (up 383 percent), and Oregon (up 380 percent).

Some Indian languages feature prominently in the spurt this decade.

The largest numerical increases in those who speak a language other than English at home between 2010 and 2018 were among speakers of Spanish (up 4.5 million), Chinese (up 663,000), Arabic (up 394,000), Hindi (up 265,000), Tagalog (up 187,000), Telugu (up 177,000), Vietnamese (up 161,000), Bengali (up 152,000), Portuguese (up 128,000), and Tamil (up 124,000).

The surge of foreign-language speakers has been accompanied by more racially-motived violence, in the US.

Voice of America reported earlier this month, based on data released by the Justice Department, that at a time when hate crimes are on the rise, federal prosecutions of such offenses have declined sharply under the Trump administration.

Since the enactment of a landmark federal hate crimes law 10 years ago, federal prosecutors have charged more than 330 people with hate crime offenses, including more than 70 people during the past three years, the Justice Department said in its report.

Although the department said it has “strengthened its hate crimes prosecution program” in recent years, the figures show a decline of nearly 38% in the number of people charged with hate crimes annually over the past three years when compared with prosecutions during the last seven years of the previous administration. This comes as bias-motivated crimes against Blacks, Jews, Muslims, LGBTQ people and other protected classes have continued to rise in recent years, noted Voice of America.

According to the most recent data from the FBI, hate crimes rose by more than 20% in 2016 and 2017.

The racial justice advocacy group, South Asian American Leading Together (SAALT), in their report tracking hate crimes in the US, for the month of September, noted also the recent case of Sandeep Dhaliwal, a deputy in Harris County, in Texas, who was shot dead while on duty.

Since November 2016, SAALT has recorded 524 incidents of hate violence and 281 incidents of xenophobia.

This past month itself, SAALT recorded 11 incidents of race-based violence in the US, breaking it down as three involving hate violence, one racial profiling and seven induced by political rhetoric that were xenophobic or Islamophobic.

One of the most glaring incidents involved shockingly enough, a member of the New Jersey law enforcement.

SAALT noted of the incident: “On September 14, 2019, Raritan, [New Jersey] Deputy Louis Reiner resigned after posting a mushroom cloud and the declaration ‘SOME CANCERS MUST BE TREATED WITH RADIATION. ISLAM IS ONE OF THEM.’

(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, News India Times. Email him: sujeet@newsindiatimes.com Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)

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