Latino Rights Coalition Says ‘Basta Ya!’ to Hate Crimes

author: 
Diane

The number of ethnicity-based hate crimes in San Diego County doubled between 2005 and 2006. Local law enforcement estimates that 75% of all hate crimes committed in 2007 were against Latinos, and a North County coalition of Latino rights groups has had enough.

There has been a significant increase in the number of hate crimes against Latinos in San Diego over the past two years, and North County Latino groups are saying “Basta ya!” (Enough!). To help combat this appalling trend, the groups’ goal is to have $10,000 on hand at all times to offer as a reward to anyone with information leading to the arrest of those responsible for committing hate crimes.

In a press release issued today, Bill Flores, spokesperson for a coalition of North County groups known simply as El Grupo, says, “It’s no coincidence that hate crimes against Latinos are on the rise in San Diego.” He explains that “Direct appeals to prejudice and the exploitation of concerns about immigration from south of the border—the oversimplification and obfuscation of the issues, and the deliberate twisting of facts—are having the effect of inciting violence against Latinos.”

In November 2007, the FBI reported that the number of ethnicity-based hate crimes in San Diego County doubled from 2005 to 2006. Although official statistics are not yet available for 2007, the District Attorney’s Hate Crimes prosecutor says Latinos are the primary target. Local law enforcement estimates that Latinos, regardless of immigration status, were the victims of approximately 75% of the reported hate crimes committed here last year. These victims include both documented and undocumented immigrants as well as U.S. citizens.

As horrifying as these statistics may be, they are hardly surprising. With local fringe groups like the San Diego Minutemen spewing anti-Latino invective, and presidential candidates exploiting the “immigration issue” as a means of diverting attention from social, economic, and foreign policy issues, it is probably safe to say that Latinos’ safety is increasingly at risk.

In past years, rewards have proven a useful way of getting tips about hate crimes. Last year’s hate crimes against Latinos include the wholesale vandalization of migrant camps in Rancho Penasquitos and McGonigle Canyon, and El Grupo helped raise a $10,000 reward to solve those cases. The reward is still unclaimed, but El Grupo says it is confident that useful tips will be provided, especially because tipsters can remain anonymous and still receive the reward. Flores acknowledges that there was a few months’ lag time between those crimes and the reward offer. “From now on, we want to be in a position to provide an incentive early on,” says Flores.