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Record-breaking high temperatures have been the norm this summer in the United States and other countries. But for Latinos, it’s been even hotter than the thermometer suggests, with one after another targeted for hate crimes around the country. Here’s a sampling of recent incidents:
- Early last Saturday in Baltimore, Martin Rayez, 51, was beaten to death with a piece of wood. The man arrested for the crime, Jermaine Holley, 19, allegedly confessed and told police that he “hated Hispanics.” He has been treated in the past for schizophrenia. The killing occurred in East Baltimore, the scene of other recent attacks on Latinos.
- Since April, there have been 11 assaults on Mexicans in the Staten Island city of Port Richmond, which has a burgeoning Latino population. All but one of the attacks is considered a bias-motivated crime carried out by blacks attacking Mexicans. There have been 26 suspected hate crimes on Staten Island this year, compared to 11 by this time last year, according to a story in The Los Angeles Times. For all of New York City, the numbers are 222 and 125, respectively.
- An Auburn, Wash. man was charged with violating the state’s hate crimes law last month after he allegedly pointed a gun at three Latino neighbors and threatened to shoot them. A police report stated that after his arrest, Thomas Hanson, 63, complained that his neighbors “were disrespecting him in his own country.” (They had asked him to turn down the volume on his music.) Hanson also sent U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) 238 E-mails, many of them ranting about illegal immigration and immigrants from Mexico.
- In June, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in Phoenix said that the murder of a Mexican-American man a month earlier was a hate crime. Gary Thomas Kelley is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Juan Varela. He also is charged with menacing Varela’s brother with a gun. “Hurry up and go back to Mexico or you’re gonna die,” Kelley shouted at Varela before shooting him in the neck, police said. The dead man was a third-generation, native-born American.
These incidents and others appear to be part of a general trend that has been in the making for several years. Anti-Latino crimes increased in each of the four years from 2003 through 2007, before dropping back slightly in 2008, according to FBI national hate crime statistics (2009 figures have not yet been compiled). In recent months, politicians and others have made statements that demonize Latinos and likely contribute to the atmosphere of violence. Two of the most outrageous recent examples: Texas Republican Congressmen Louie Gohmert and Debbie Riddle both claimed that pregnant terrorists plan to sneak into America to give birth to future terrorists who will automatically become U.S. citizens and eventually “help destroy our way of life,” as Gohmert put it. Both representatives claimed that former FBI officials divulged the terrorist baby threat to them. CNN asked Tom Fuentes, who served as the FBI’s assistant director in the office of international operations from 2004 to 2008 about the claims by Gohmert and Riddle. “There was never a credible report — or any report, for that matter … to indicate that there was such a plan for these terror babies to be born,” he said.
Debunking myths like these about Hispanic immigrants won’t likely deter new ones from cropping up like stubborn weeds. And in today’s overheated immigration climate, it’s a good bet more Hispanics will be beaten, even killed, as the debate — if it can be called that — rages on.