Once again, the ADL clearly states that there is an important discussion that needs to happen regarding immigration, and yet, still, people with little insight, miss the point. It is amazing that the for an article with the subtitle, “Blog comments reflect stereotyping and bigotry”, you will find hateful and misinformed comments replicated in the comment section of THAT article. What the ADL IS advocating, AGAIN, is that people step away from the scapegoating of hispanics and look at the historical relationship between hate rhetoric and the dangerous journey it has taken some nations.
The Houston Chronicle made some important discoveries with its recent series by Susan Carroll on the failure of law enforcement officials to deport or keep in jail illegal immigrants who commit crimes.
Certainly the Chronicle’s investigation pointed out shortcomings in our legal and immigration systems that need to be fixed. The release of any criminal who goes on to commit more crimes, whether he or she is in this country legally or not, can be called a miscarriage of justice.
What concerns us at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is despite Carroll’s attempts to reach readers with the results of research that “found that recent immigrants are far less likely than their U.S.-born counterparts to commit crimes and end up in prison,” anti-immigrant bigots seized on parts of her series to insult, stereotype, and even advocate violence against immigrants and others they perceived to be immigrants, especially Hispanics.
Here are some examples of the comments from Chronicle blogs:
• “This is a no-brainer to me. Start with the jails and get all those people deported, then construction companies, garbage companies, landscape companies, restaurants and must I go on?”
• “All of our grandchildren’s children are going to live in a third world country.”
• “We the taxpayers are footing the bill for these society leeches.The people from Katrina were bad enough. Our crime rate is still high.”
• “I got a great idea — just shoot them on the spot if they commit a serious crime in Texas.”
These comments should offend all of us, and must be challenged. One only need look at the Holocaust to see the results of relentless, pervasive bigotry. The Nazis began their campaign with words and pictures against Jews, Slavs, political dissidents, Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals and the mentally and physically disabled.
Law enforcement officers in ADL’s Law Enforcement in Society course, taught jointly with Holocaust Museum Houston and the Houston Police Department, review Nazi-created images to see how the Nazis used elaborate media campaigns to turn people against certain groups.
They include a newspaper photo of a “search for dissident contraband” in a Jewish neighborhood, and another photo of an official-looking man questioning a Roma woman for research in “criminal biology,” a pseudo-science that maintained certain groups were more likely to be criminals because of the makeup of their blood. As images like that grew more pervasive, even well-educated people started to believe them. An estimated 11 million people died as the result of 12 years of hatred fueled by biased propaganda, and compounded by the silence of those who didn’t speak out against the hate.
Unfortunately, we already see signs that anti-immigrant rhetoric has led to more overt and violent consequences.
ADL has noticed an increase in such rhetoric among extremist groups in recent years, coupled with a marked increase in hate incidents and hate crimes against Latinos and those perceived to be Latinos. Further, the FBI has documented a disturbing four-year trend in the increase of hate crimes against Latinos from 475 in 2005 to 595 in 2007 nationally.
We caution readers to refrain from taking the Chronicle’s well-intentioned and informative series, a series that found some real problems, and using those problems to justify prejudice and bigotry against all immigrants. As the reporters and columnists, including Carroll, Lisa Falkenberg and Rick Casey indicated, study after study has found that recent immigrants, even illegal immigrants, are less likely to commit crimes than American-born citizens. Harvard Sociology Professor Robert J. Sampson and his colleagues found in a study they completed several years ago that first-generation immigrants were 45 percent less likely to commit violence than were third-generation Americans.
The Chronicle exercised responsible journalism in showing all sides of the issue. It reported its findings of problems with the way the justice system handles immigrant criminals, and it also reported facts that show the problem is not immigrants in general. Now it is time for us to do our part.
We need to read such articles thoroughly and thoughtfully. If the bloggers quoted above had done so, perhaps they wouldn’t be so quick to paint all immigrants with a broad brush. We should ask our elected representatives, law enforcement officials and media to avoid demonizing immigrants and to work together with us to solve real problems and promote understanding.
We are a proud nation of immigrants. It is one of the dramatic success stories of world history. Most of the people who cross our borders today contribute positively to our society. Yes, our system has its problems, but those problems are only going to get worse if we address them with them hateful words and actions, instead of positive solutions. One solution to the problem is a comprehensive immigration reform that balances fairness, compassion and security. The other is to leave hate rhetoric out of the debate.
Nathan is the national chair of the Anti-Defamation League’s Civil Rights Committee; Cominsky is ADL Southwest Regional Director.