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August 25, 2015

When Hateful Speech Leads to Hate Crimes: Taking Bigotry Out of the Immigration Debate

By Jonathan Green­blatt
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

When police arrived at the scene in Boston, they found a Latino man shaking on the ground, his face apparently soaked in urine, with a broken nose.  His arms and chest had been beaten.  One of the two brothers arrested and charged with the hate crime reportedly told police, “Donald Trump was right—all these illegals need to be deported.”

The victim, a homeless man, was apparently sleeping outside of a subway station in Dorchester when the perpetrators attacked.  His only offense was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The brothers attacked him for who he was—simply because he was Latino.

In recent weeks anti-immigrant—and by extension anti-Latino—rhetoric has reached a fever pitch.  Immigrants have been smeared as “killers” and “rapists.”  They have been accused of bringing drugs and crime.  A radio talk show host in Iowa has called for enslavement of undocumented immigrants if they do not leave within 60 days.  There have been calls to repeal the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of citizenship to people born in the United States, with allegations that people come here to have so-called “anchor babies.”  And the terms “illegal aliens” and “illegals”— which many mainstream news sources wisely rejected years ago because they dehumanize and stigmatize people—have resurged.

The words used on the campaign trail, on the floors of Congress, in the news, and in all our living rooms have consequences.  They directly impact our ability to sustain a society that ensures dignity and equality for all.  Bigoted rhetoric and words laced with prejudice are building blocks for the pyramid of hate.

Biased behaviors build on one another, becoming ever more threatening and dangerous towards the top.  At the base is bias, which includes stereotyping and insensitive remarks.  It sets the foundation for a second, more complex and more damaging layer: individual acts of prejudice, including bullying, slurs, and dehumanization.  Next is discrimination, which in turn supports bias-motivated violence, including hate crimes like the tragic one in Boston. And in the most extreme cases if left unchecked, the top of the pyramid of hate is genocide.

Just like a pyramid, the lower levels support the upper levels.  Bias, prejudice and discrimination—particularly touted by those with a loud megaphone and cheering crowd—all contribute to an atmosphere that enables hate crimes and other hate-fueled violence.  The most recent hate crime in Boston is just one of too many.  In fact, there is a hate crime roughly every 90 minutes in the United States today.  That is why last week ADL announced a new initiative, #50StatesAgainstHate, to strengthen hate crimes laws around the country and safeguard communities vulnerable to hate-fueled attacks. We are working with a broad coalition of partners to get the ball rolling.

Laws alone, however, cannot cure the disease of hate.  To do that, we need to change the conversation.  We would not suggest that any one person’s words caused this tragedy – the perpetrators did that; but the rhetorical excesses by so many over the past few weeks give rise to a climate in which prejudice, discrimination, and hate-fueled violence can take root.

Reasonable people can differ about how we should fix our broken immigration system, but stereotypes, slurs, smears and insults have no place in the debate.

Immigrants have been a frequent target of hate, and unfortunately, prejudice and violence are not new.  Many of our ancestors faced similar prejudice when they came to the United States. In the 1800s, the attacks were against Irish and German immigrants. Next was a wave of anti-Chinese sentiment culminating with the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. Then the hatred turned on the Jews, highlighted by the lynching of Leo Frank in 1915.  Then came bigotry against Japanese immigrants and people of Japanese dissent, which led to the shameful internment of more than 110,000 people during World War II.  Today, anti-immigrant bigotry largely focuses on Latinos.  The targets have changed, but the messages of hate remain largely the same.  It is long past time for that to end.

ADL, as a 501(c)(3), does not support or oppose candidates for elective office,but we have a simple message for all policymakers and candidates:  There is no place for hate in the immigration debate.  There is nothing patriotic or admirable about hatred and hate-fueled violence.  The only acceptable response to hate crimes is unequivocal, strong condemnation.  And the same is true for the bias, prejudice, and bigoted speech that have recently permeated the immigration conversation.

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April 7, 2015

Right-wing Terror Attacks in U.S. Approach 1990s Levels

Recent terrorist attacks, plots and conspiracies by right-wing extremists in the United States are approaching the level of attacks in the mid-1990s when the Oklahoma City bombing occurred, based on a chronology of such attacks compiled by the Anti-Defamation League.  The chronology was released as part of ADL’s commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the April 19, 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.right-wing_plots_attacks_1995-2014

The list of right-wing attacks and attempted attacks chronicles 120 different incidents between January 1995 and December 2014, illustrating a steady stream of domestic terror incidents in the United States stemming from extreme-right movements over the past two decades.  Targets included ethnic and religious minorities, government officials and buildings, law enforcement officers, abortion clinics and their staff, and others.

Examined over time, the attacks illustrate the two major surges of right-wing extremism that the United States has experienced in the past 20 years.  The first began in the mid-1990s and lasted until the end of the decade.  The second surge began in the late 2000s and has not yet died down.

During both surges, the number of right-wing terror attacks and conspiracies outnumbered those in the intervening period.  From 1995 through 2000, 47 incidents occurred, while from 2009 through 2014, 42 incidents took place.  The eight-year intervening period of 2001-08 produced 31 attacks.  The surge of recent years has not produced a two-year period with as many incidents as the years 1995-1996, which had a high of 18 attacks, but it has come close, with 16 attacks for the years 2011-12.

When analyzed on the basis of perpetrator ideology, the list shows that the various white supremacist and anti-government extremist movements have produced the vast majority of the right-wing terrorist incidents over the past 20 years, with 50 each.  Anti-abortion extremists come in third place with 13 incidents.right-wing_terrorism_by_movement_1995-2014

Incidents on the list include terrorist acts and plots by white supremacists, anti-government extremists, anti-abortion extremists, anti-immigration extremists, anti-Muslim extremists, and others.  The list does not include spontaneous acts of violence by right-wing extremists, such as killings committed during traffic stops, nor does it include lesser incidents of extremist violence or non-ideological violence committed by extremists.

Some incidents had perpetrators who adhered to more than one ideological movement; in such cases, the movement that seemed most important to the perpetrator was used for categorization.  Categorization was by perpetrator ideology rather than type of target, a fact important to note, as different movements sometimes chose the same type of target (white supremacists and anti-abortion extremists both targeted abortion clinics, for example), while some perpetrators chose targets that did not closely tie in with their main ideology (such as anti-abortion extremist Eric Rudolph targeting the 1996 Atlanta Olympics).  The 2001 plot by the Jewish Defense League to attack Muslim-related targets in California is not listed, as ADL includes such incidents under Jewish nationalist extremism rather than right-wing extremism.

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February 3, 2015

House Judiciary Committee Extends Invitation To Sheriff Paul Babeu

The House Judiciary Committee, which held a meeting on February 3 on the enforcement of immigration laws in the U.S., invited Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County, Arizona to testify. Babeu is known for his anti-immigrant views and claimed that many of the undocumented immigrants crossing the border have criminal backgrounds. Babeu is a controversial figure.

Sheriff Paul Babeu

Sheriff Paul Babeu

In the summer of 2014, when there was a surge of children fleeing to the United States across the Mexican border, Babeu reportedly leaked details of where some of those children would be bused in Oracle, Arizona, to receive social services. This led to chaos when about 80 anti-immigrant activists confronted school buses filled with children in the town and tried to halt the buses. Some held signs that said, “Return to Sender.” It turned out, however, that the school buses were filled with local children heading to YMCA camp. Local media chastised Babeu for stirring up trouble in the town. In response, he said that he was just informing the public.

Babeu has courted controversy on other occasions too. In 2012, when five bodies were found in a burned-out SUV in Pinal County, he declared that the deaths appeared to be related to a drug cartel. Later on, authorities learned that the incident was actually a murder-suicide of a family from Phoenix and unrelated to drugs.

In addition, Babeu has appeared on extremist shows. In July 2010, he was a guest on “The Political Cesspool,” a white supremacist show, where Babeu talked about immigration and bemoaned what he referred to as the invasion of Arizona. After Babeu’s appearance on the show became public, he claimed he did not know about the show’s politics.

According to media reports, he also appeared on Alex Jones’ radio show. Jones is one of the most prominent conspiracy theorist in the United States, and has been responsible for spreading and popularizing a wide variety of conspiracies, the majority espousing some form of anti-government viewpoint. Babeu reportedly spoke about an incident in which his deputy was allegedly shot by members of a Mexican drug cartel. Although Babeu exploited the deputy’s story to justify Arizona’s harsh anti-immigrant bill, SB 1070, the deputy was later fired for allegedly making false statements about the incident.

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