Since the early 1900s, Latinos in the United States have endured hate-based violence. From the Ludlow Massacre to the murder of Luis Ramirez, hate crimes are, unfortunately, nothing new to our community. Alarmingly, they seem to be on the rise in recent years. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center there are currently 888 active hate groups operating in the United States, a 48% increase since 2000. Many have been formed due to increasing hostility towards immigrants specifically of Hispanic descent and the FBI recently released a report detailing a 35% rise in hate crimes against Latinos between 2003 and 2006. In 2007, the Bureau reported 9,006 hate crimes motivated by race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or religious beliefs and a staggering 61.7 percent of those were aimed at Latinos.
If you’d like to get involved you can contact and join any of the following organizations:
Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund
Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation’s leading non-profit Latino legal organization. Often described as the “law firm of the Latino community,” MALDEF promotes equality and justice through litigation, advocacy, public policy, and community education in the areas of employment, immigrants’ rights, voting rights, education, and language rights.
The Southern Poverty Law Center
The Southern Poverty Law Center was founded in 1971 as a small civil rights law firm. Today, SPLC is internationally known for its tolerance education programs, its legal victories against white supremacists and it’s tracking of hate groups.
Hate crimes against minority groups have plagued our country since it’s founding. Here’s an abbreviated timeline of hate against Latinos, with a focus on the most recent cases:
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In 1914, the Colorado Militia carries out an attack against a group of striking coal miners, almost all of them Mexican American. More than 50 people are killed, including 11 children and three women.
The Zoot Suit Riots rock Los Angeles in 1943. For ten days straight, American sailors cruise the city looking for young Mexican American men dressed in baggy pants and long-tailed coats—or Zoot Suits. The military men drag the young Mexicanos out into the streets, strip them down and beat them viciously.
The U.S. Immigration Service begins “Operation Wetback” in 1953. For the next five years, 3.8 million Latinos are deported. Many U.S. citizens, including political activist Luisa Moreno and other important community leaders, are illegally removed from the country.
In 1990, the California Delegation Against Hate Crime reports on sky rocketing incidents of human rights abuses by INS agents and private citizens along the San Diego/Tijuana border. 14 years later, Jim Gilchrist starts the Minutemen project and begins to formally organize anti-immigrant “activists” along the entire U.S./Mexico border.
Jordan Gruver, Meade County, Kentucky, July 29, 2006. A U.S. citizen of Panamanian and Native-American descent, members of the Imperial Klans of America approached the then 16-year-old Gruver at a county fair in Kentucky, and mistaking him for an illegal immigrant, began to spit and throw alcohol at him. The subsequent beating left Gruver with a broken jaw and arm, two cracked ribs and cuts and bruises. He was recently awarded $2.5 million in damages for the attack.
Robert Cantu, Mount Vernon, Ohio, May 30, 2008. Cantu was dragged around a parking lot after four people jumped out of the back of a truck, yelled, “Get the Spic!” and put a noose around his neck. The group told the teen they were going to take him to a park and hang him, but he was rescued when two of his friends and a passerby stopped and helped him escape. The only suspect charged in the crime, Dale Cline, was sentenced to 10 days in jail.
Luis Ramirez, Shenandoah, PA, July 12, 2008. Spotted walking with a white girl in town, Ramirez was beaten so badly by a group of high school football players that he foamed at the mouth. He died from his injuries two days later, leaving his fiancée and two children. Ramirez’s murderers were found not guilty of all serious charges.
Jose Sucuzhañay, Brooklyn, NY, Dec. 7, 2008. Walking home from a party with his arm around his brother, Sucuzhañay was beaten to death with a baseball bat by a gang shouting anti-gay and anti-Latino slurs. An immigrant from Ecuador, Sucuzhañay had worked his way up from being a waiter to owning several apartment buildings. He left two children. Keith Phoenix and Hakim Scott were charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime.
Wilter Sanchez, North Plainfield, NJ, Jan 21, 2009. Sanchez, a Colombian immigrant, was beaten nearly to death by a group of young African American men yelling ethnic slurs. His assailants were charged with first and second-degree robbery.
Brisenia Flores, Arivaca, AZ, May 30, 2009. Brisenia, age nine, and her father, were killed when three members of the Minuteman American Defense group broke into her family’s home. The ringleader, Shawna Forde, allegedly holds extreme anti-immigrant views. Forde and her two followers are currently facing two counts of first-degree murder, one count of first-degree burglary, and one count of aggravated assault each.