MALDEF Combats Racist Attacks on Immigrants

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)–created in Texas in 1960s and now a leading Latino civil rights and educational organization–operates a “Truth in Immigration” website with useful information and research data on how the media are portraying Latino immigrants, with an accent on errors. One of their productions is this short video (2:29) (see here) , which does a good job of highlighting some recent media distortions:

Media Matters has also challenged the conservative blaming of undocumented immigrants for our current (Bush) economic depression as having no solid evidence for their claims. Conservative

media figures have baselessly claimed that according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), 5 million mortgages taken out by undocumented immigrants are in default, or close to it. In fact, according to an October 9, 2008, Phoenix Business Journal article, HUD “says there is no basis to news reports that more than 5 million bad mortgages are held by illegal immigrants. A HUD spokesman said … his agency has no data showing the number of illegal immigrants holding foreclosed or bad mortgages.” Nevertheless, conservative media figures continued to baselessly attribute the financial crisis in part to excessive lending to illegal immigrants, including:
* San Diego radio host Roger Hedgcock and radio host Joe Madison, during the October 9, 2008, edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight; * Phoenix radio station KFYI, in an article on its website; * The Drudge Report in an October 9, 2008, link to the KFYI article; * Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin in a September 24, 2008, column; * Limbaugh, during the October 10, 2008, broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show* Radio host Lee Rodgers, during the October, 10, 2008, broadcast of KSFO’s The Lee Rodgers Show; * Radio host Jim Quinn, during the October 10, 2008, broadcast of Clear Channel’s The War Room with Quinn & Rose

As we have discussed here numerous times, this type of fear-mongering accounts for some/much of the rise in hate crimes against US Latinos, including many attacks on undocumented and other immigrants. Recent FBI data indicate that “hate crimes” against Latinos increased in the most recent data year; some 4,956 people were reported as victims of racially motivated crimes. About seven in ten of those victimized (3,434) were targeted because of an anti-black bias, and 830 Latinos were also victims of racial hate crimes. These numbers are very serious underestimates, because most (nearly 15,500) of the 17,500 police jurisdicitions do not report their hate crimes or report zero hate crimes.

Indeed, a 2009 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center calculated from various data that at least “210,000 people a year are victimized by hate crimes, the vast majority of them motivated by race or ethnicity.” According to this report much of the recent increase in hate crimes has involved immigrants from Latin America. In addition, they report that the number of racist hate groups, such as Klan and neo-Nazi groups, has grown by nearly 50 percent over the last decade (up to 926 groups now!). They suggest that much of that growth is connected to nativistic agitation against Latino immigrants in the media and by white politicians.