The battle against hate is at the heart of the Anti-Defamation League’s mission, and we stand with victimized immigrant communities to decry violence directed at them in recent months. Our condolences and heartfelt sympathies go to Marcelo Lucero’s family and friends as they struggle to come to terms with this tragedy.
As our national conversation about immigration reform continues, we believe that there is a clear connection between the tenor of this political debate and the daily lives of immigrants in our communities, and Latinos in particular. ADL has documented and reported on a growing atmosphere of bigotry and violence against those perceived to be immigrants. Across the nation, extremists and hate-mongers have exploited the immigration issue to advance their own agenda. The FBI recently reported that hate crimes against Latinos increased in 2007 for the fourth consecutive year.
ADL has also become increasingly concerned about the virulent rhetoric employed by a number of groups that have sought to portray themselves as mainstream advocates against illegal immigration. These groups attempt to distort the policy debate by fomenting fear and spreading unfounded propaganda through the use of several key tactics, such as portraying immigrants as criminals and disease carriers, and blaming immigrants for eroding American culture and quality of life. This type of demonization of immigrants has led to xenophobia and has created an environment in which hateful rhetoric targeting immigrants has become routine.
We believe that four concrete measures can improve this situation.
- FIRST. We urge those who debate and discuss the issue of immigration reform to speak out against virulent anti-immigrant and anti-Latino rhetoric. It is crucial that civic leaders and law enforcement officials use their bully pulpit to promote better intergroup relations.
- SECOND. We need to remember that America is a nation of immigrants. We must make progress as a country towards the passage of comprehensive immigration reform to ensure an immigration system that is workable – with an appropriate balance of fairness, compassion, and national security awareness. As President John F. Kennedy wrote more than 40 years ago, “Immigration policy should be generous; it should be fair; it should be flexible. With such a policy we can turn to the world, and to our own past, with clean hands and a clear conscience.”
- THIRD. We must reject local or state laws that allow for discrimination and profiling based on national origin or race, and resist the temptation to task local police departments with the responsibility of enforcing immigration laws. As a leading advocate in the fight against hate crimes, ADL believes that it is critically important for local law enforcement officers to develop positive relations with immigrant communities in their jurisdictions. Victims, witnesses, and community members must feel safe in reporting crimes to their local police.
- FOURTH. We urge passage of the federal Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act as soon as possible. This federal hate crime statute would expand the authority of the federal government to assist local authorities in investigating and prosecuting hate crimes.
The Jewish community knows all too well the power of words to translate into hate. We also know all too well the cost of silence. We urge everyone here today to join us in speaking out and ensuring an effective response to violent bigotry.