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.


  1. Stephen Steinberg

    I’m not about to defend Lou Dobbs’s contemptible nativist screed, but in the middle of this video, which purports to stand for truth and accuracy in reporting, engages in a sleight of hand. In the midst of exposing Dobb’s falsehoods, it challenges an ad by the Conference for the Future of the American Worker that “cites a single disputed and misleading source regarding the impact of immigration on African-American employment and wages.” The camera then momentarily flashes to the text of the study that asserts: “the employment rate of black men–particularly low-skilled men–fell precipitously from 1960-2000.” Then the voiceover counters this with the assertion that there is “an overwhelming body of economic research that showing that immigrants have positive or neutral impact on employment or wages in the United States.” Well, the problem is that both things may be true. There is no denying that mass immigration has been a boon to the American economy AS A WHOLE, but this does not preclude the possibility that it has had a detrimental effect on low-wage workers, especially African-Americans who are pushed back in the hiring queue despite the fact that these new immigrants are themselves “people of color.”
    It would be far better to face up to this inconvenient fact then to engage in evasion and denial, not to speak of calculated obfuscation of the facts. This is not to say that we have to sign on to Dobbs’s nativist crusade or turn a blind eye to immigrant struggles. But we do need to confront the fact that as the “last hired,” African Americans have suffered from the effects of immigration all through American history. Instead of denying the obvious (also documented by a body of research), we need to find a way to reconcile the legitimate interests of immigrants with those of African Americans.

  2. Joe Author

    Good point, SS. And the key intervening variable here is that in the cities (by no means all) where low-wage immigrant workers do significantly compete with low-wage black workers, it is the white employers who prefer the Latino immigrants because they are less likely to unionize and to protest harsh working conditions. (They know they can be deported, etc.) Ultimately, white racism mixed with capitalism, again.

  3. Doug R.

    Its funny that a group that says its against racist views is itself a racist group (see below). The simple facts are we can not take ALL the worlds poor and the USA makes its immigration policy. This means that citizens of other nations do not have the right to just break in because they do not agree with our laws.

    Mario Obledo, founding member/former national director of Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), former CA Secretary Health/Welfare on Tom Leikus radio talk show

    “We’re going to take over all the political institutions in California. In five years the Hispanics are going to be the majority population of this state.” Caller: “You also made the statement that California is going to become a Hispanic state and if anyone doesn’t like it they should leave – did you say that?” Obledo: “I did. They ought to go back to Europe.”

    “Jose Angel Gutierrez said, ‘We have an aging white America, they are dying, I love it.’ How would you translate that statement?” Obledo: “He’s a good friend of mine. A very smart person.”

  4. Seattle in Texas

    Hello Doug R.,

    In your opening statement…ummm, I think the white group in this nation leads by example on that (both conservative and liberal–just different sides of the coin with the same outcomes). The simple facts are that this nation has been responsible for creating poverty throughout the world then abandons responsibility. Citizens of other nations “breaking in”…well, you may wish to look into your own family tree (check out the colonizers and their actions)…and this nation also has double standards with their immigration policies. It profits tremendously from the work undocumented workers produce in many ways (nevermind taking responsibility for their hardships, short and long term damages from not being adequately protected by the law that human beings designated as “U.S. citizens” get). The U.S. laws on immigration are inherently racist. Your comments remind me of a terrible morning I had not too long ago when I went to have a quiet meal…only to be confronted with televisions tuned into FOX News talking about this very topic. The “experts” (white men in their expensive suits of course, and nevermind the hair) were explaining the difference between “human rights” and “citizen rights” pertaining to the U.S. With all honesty I get lost when this nation has such discussions. Human beings are human beings, are they not? Regardless of which part of the world they reside in. The U.S. claims to be “morally” and “ethically” advanced. If this were the case, would citizenry not make a bit of a difference when it comes to treating people “equal” as the U.S. so claims ? (which is a lie)

    On the movement you speak of–I just heard something similar about L.A. Well, first, the California territory was originally colonized by the Spanish then inhabited by both the Spanish and tribal groups. Then the white Europeans went in and brutally re-colonized the area–stealing homes, deeds, property, etc., while killing men, women, and children, taking it over. The Spanish folks screwed pretty bad and the tribal folks fucked over twice–ongoing genocide…but the second time in a way that inevitably resulted in also cultural and ethnic genocide for some remaining groups (as is the case for most–what remains today may I ask?). To this very day, there are still people of both descents residing in California and considering their anscetry goes back further than the white Europeans, why should they not be represented in the political body–especially in this so-called “advanced” era? Why should they not be allowed to have a voice in their lives and their futures?

    I say take the damn border down.

  5. Sonia Vivar

    ( blank sheets, they haven’t done anything) nice offices and now a salary for this joker.
    Maldef what have you done for us lately, for the heft payroll checks you cash?????????


Leave a Reply