The Campaign Spot

Looking at Obama’s Claim About The Immigration Debate and Hate Crimes

Last night Obama said, “We have seen hate crimes skyrocket in the wake of the immigration debate as it has been conducted in Washington, and that is unacceptable.”

I think Obama is getting it from this report by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Although hate crime statistics are highly unreliable, numbers that are available strongly suggest a marked upswing in racially motivated violence against all Latinos, regardless of immigration status. According to hate crime statistics published annually by the FBI, anti-Latino hate crimes rose by almost 35% between 2003 and 2006, the latest year for which statistics are available. In California, the state with the largest population of Latinos in the country, anti-Latino hate crimes almost doubled in the same period.

Taking a look at the FBI numbers, we see that in 2006, there were 576 “anti-Hispanic” incidents, with 770 offenses, 819 victims, and 802 known offenders.
In 2003, there were 426 incidents, 529 offenses, 595 victims and 577 known offenders.
By contrast, in 2006 there were 2,640 “Anti-Black” incidents, 890 “Anti-White” incidents, 967 “Anti-Jewish” incidents, 156 “Anti-Islamic” incidents, 747 “Anti-Male Homosexual” and 163 “Anti-Female Homosexual.”
Now, make no mistake, any hate crime is a tragedy and outrage and ought to be prosecuted. (Really, any CRIME ought to be prosecuted.) But there are 300 million Americans, and the number of Hispanic Americans is about 45 million people.
So the chances of any given Hispanic American being a victim of a hate crime have increased from 1 in 105,633 or so to 1 in 78,125.
Beyond that, how many jerks and yahoos who would commit a crime against someone based on where they’re from would be triggered by a debate in Congress, as Obama’s comment suggests? “Pal, I’m gonna knock you around, because a lot of Senators are claiming they oppose the bill but are going to vote for closure!”
I’m reminded of another Democratic politician, looking at another hate-fueled tragedy, and finding another convenient target to blame:

We must arrest, convict, and punish the people who committed this terrible, terrible deed, but our responsibility does not end there.

In this country we cherish and guard the right of free speech. We know we love it when we put up with people saying things we absolutely deplore. And we must always be willing to defend their right to say things we deplore to the ultimate degree. But we hear so many loud and angry voices in America today whose sole goal seems to be to try to keep some people as paranoid as possible and the rest of us all torn up and upset with each other. They spread hate. They leave the impression that, by their very words, that violence is acceptable. You ought to see – I’m sure you are now seeing the reports of some things that are regularly said over the airwaves in America today.

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