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Monday, June 22, 2009

When the Tide of Anger on Immigration Turns to Threats of Violence

Opinion Editorial
June 21, 2009

Francisco Lopez, Executive Director: (503) 269-5694
Erik Sorensen, Communications Director: (503) 488-0263

When the Tide of Anger on Immigration Turns to Threats of Violence

A response to The Oregonian article “A tide of anger on immigration”

The Sunday Oregonian's Opinion section featured a commentary on the topic of Immigration, which included statements from those opposed to reform. It didn't take long after the article was posted online for outrageous comments to start popping up. Among the scapegoating, hyperbole, bombast and fear-mongering, it wasn't hard to find a comment with a violent connotation directed at immigrants: "send them home on a bus or in a box." That offering has since been removed.

The despicable comments didn’t end at attacking immigrants; they were also levied at the editor of the article, The Oregonian staff, elected officials and churches, among others. The comments are all left by those using aliases to conceal their identity.

As Professor HoSang from the University of Oregon stated in the article, "There's not much interest in scapegoat politics. There isn't the audience, and the parties realize there's costs to this kind of strategy." This fact, of course, does not prevent members from groups opposed to immigration reform from engaging in it. And, is probably why Professor HoSang believes that immigration restrictionist organizations like OFIR or the Minutemen "are close to becoming fringe organizations", if they aren’t already.

With polls reflecting well over 70% of Americans supporting immigration reform, the claims by these immigration restrictionist groups that Oregonians support their position and message is a weak one, at best.

The views espoused by such groups and individuals are not new. According to Rita Simon, professor of public affairs at American University in Washington, D.C, the American public's attitude toward immigrants is part of an “old pattern”. She explains in the Oregonian article that there is a belief that immigrants who came earlier to the United States were better than those who are coming now.
"When the Irish immigrants first came, there were riots. When the Chinese came, they were banned," Simon said. "Now the Irish and the Chinese are looked upon as a positive experience. Because many recent immigrants come from Mexico and are illegal, they now tend to get the ire."
One has to question how productive these articles are when people can leave comments anonymously scapegoating, denigrating and inciting violence against immigrants. Just this month, members of a Washington State Minutemen group were charged with the brutal home invasion murder of a 9 year old Latina child and her father. In Ohio, a 17 year old Hispanic boy was assaulted by four teens who put a noose around the boy’s neck and dragged him through a parking lot while using racial epithets. And this last week, two others were sentenced for the brutal beating death of Luis Ramirez, a 25-year-old Mexican immigrant. The teens involved in this case shouted ethnic slurs and told Ramirez to “go back to Mexico”.

There are no doubt countless of other incidents of violence directed at immigrants that either don’t make headlines or go unreported by the victims fearful of being re-victimized by a system that would separate them from their families. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) said that there has been a 40 percent rise in hate crimes against Latinos between 2003 and 2007. It is disturbing to think that such hateful speech and incitement might be causing the escalating violence against immigrants.

Although CAUSA supports the free exchange of views on immigration reform both for and against, we vehemently oppose the hateful rhetoric, scapegoating and the incitement of violence that has become such a common vehicle of those who can’t debate the merits of their anti-immigrant views effectively. Even without The Oregonian article, there is no shortage of hatred directed at immigrants on the internet and on radio talk shows.

The question is, at what point do these hateful comments on internet and radio turn into vicious and violent acts toward Latinos and immigrants? And, at what point do these incitements of violence affect our youth who turn to committing violence towards immigrants and ethnic minorities?

Our members, and surely many readers, look forward to The Oregonian holding listening sessions for those who have been affected by our nation’s broken immigration system and who believe that it is critical for Congress to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform this year.

Posted at The Oregonian on June 23, 2009



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