NEW YORK – Almost eighteen years after 9/11, vicious hate crimes, bigotry and xenophobia that spawned and spun through the United States, creating havoc in minority communities, is like a dryer in a never-ending loop.
Vanita Gupta, who led the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, during part of President Obama’s second term, and is now the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human rights, submitting a statement on record to the House, on Capitol Hill, earlier this week, put it succinctly after presenting some startling data: “Hate is pervasive in America.”
Gupta sumbitted the statement to the House Committee on the Judiciary hearing on ‘Hate Crimes and the rise of White Nationalism.’ The Leadership Conference is a coalition of more than 200 national organizations committed to promoting and protecting civil and human rights in the United States.
Gupta pointed out that the hearing comes at a crucial time, when too many people feel unwelcome, unsafe, and marginalized; that policies targeting or casting wide aspersions on Muslim, immigrant, and other marginalized communities have heightened concerns that the country is increasingly legitimizing or normalizing hate.
The anti-Semitic attacks in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life Synagogue, to the Kroger shooting in Kentucky; white nationalist deadly attack in Charlottesville, and even the New Zealand mosque attacks which were inspired by anti-Muslim rhetoric in America, makes one thing apparent: hate is prevalent.
And worse, it’s being underreported.
According to the most recent data from the FBI, hate crimes against African Americans, Latinos, the LGBTQ community, Native Americans, Jews, and Muslims all increased in 2017. The FBI announced a disturbing 17 percent increase in reported hate crimes in 2017. There were 7,175 hate crimes in America, up from 6,121 in 2016, the third consecutive year that reported hate crimes have increased.
Even more disturbing, though, 87 percent of all participating police agencies affirmatively reported zero hate crimes to the FBI, including at least 82 cities over 100,000, pointed out Gupta. This means that more than 1,000 law enforcement agencies did not report any data to the FBI.
Gupta informed that since the launch of a sister organization in March of 2017, Communities Against Hate – a national initiative to document stories and respond to incidents of violence, threats, and property damage motivated by hate around the US – almost 5,000 incidents have been recorded.
Individuals reported in the poll that they experienced depression and anxiety, sought therapy, and even moved after hate incidents occurred. The findings show that after people experience hate incidents, they largely feel unsafe and unwelcome in their communities, which further divides the nation.
Commending Facebook for its decision to ban white nationalist content on its platform, recommendations Gupta advocated – to clamp down and prevent hate crimes, include comprehensive legislation focusing on inclusive anti-bias education, hate crimes prevention, bullying, and cyberbullying, as well as harassment education, policies, and training initiatives.
Gupta also urged Congress to encourage companies to conduct civil rights audits of both their company and its products, and pass the National Opposition to Hate, Assault, and Threats to Equality Act (NO HATE) legislation, designed to provide incentives for hate crime reporting, grants for state-run hate crime hotlines, a federal private right of action for victims of hate crimes, and additional sentencing options for individuals convicted under the Matthew Shephard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
The best way to address hate crimes is to address hate, said Gupta.
Taking a potshot at the Trump administration, Gupta said the federal government cannot effectively address hate crimes if it is, at the same time, scapegoating Muslims, denigrating Hispanics, demonizing immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers as “invaders,” mocking people with disabilities, marginalizing women and religious minorities through policy and executive action, and promoting regulatory changes and filing briefs that negatively impact LGBTQ communities – especially the transgender community.
What Gupta didn’t broach upon in her testimony, though, is the acute crisis in the US because of illegal immigration. A huge surge in illegal crossings is overwhelming existing security setup and hospitality facilities at the Southern borders, and states across the US, creating fresh animosity towards immigrants.
This surge in illegal immigration, driven by cunning and calculated strategies like publicized caravans with hordes of families and manipulated cross-country smuggling, is having the same effect like in the immediate aftermath of 9/11: deep resentment for individuals and communities who look foreigners, perceived to be doing more damage than good to society.
According to new data from the DHS, in 2018, 152,257 Mexican citizens were nabbed at the southern border, up from 127,938 in 2017 but fewer than the all-time high of 653,035 in 2008.
The number from Guatemala jumped from 66,871 to 115,722 in the same period, reported the New York Post. Apprehensions of Honduran citizens spiked from 47,260 to 76,513. They are among hundreds of thousands of immigrants from more than 100 countries who try to enter the US illegally every year.
The number of people crossing the Mexican border illegally has spiked, hitting a 12-year high in March, reported Time.
The New York Times, in an exhaustive piece published today, on the surge in illegal immigration, titled, ‘The U.S. Immigration System May Have Reached a Breaking Point’, analyzed that America’s immigration system has failed.
Trump’s declaration, in February, that “it’s an invasion,” after Congress denied him money to build a wall, and his withdrawn threat earlier this month to close the border with Mexico, might not seem that ludicrous after all.
Anti-immigrant rhetoric is growing, boiling over; hate crimes are likely to follow. Don’t be surprised if legal immigrants are caught in the mix too.
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)