Led by three states on the southern border, the number of hate groups operating in America has swelled by 48 percent since 2000, a staggering increase mainly attributable to the anti-immigrant fervor sweeping the country, according to the "Year in Hate" issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report released today.
The latest annual count by the SPLC found the number of hate groups operating in America rose to 888 last year, up 5 percent from the 844 groups in 2006 and far above the 602 groups documented in 2000.
At the same time, new FBI statistics suggest a 35 percent rise in hate crimes against Latinos between 2003 and 2006. Experts believe that such crimes are typically carried out by people who think they are attacking immigrants.
"Hate groups continue to successfully exploit the immigration debate to their advantage, even though the immigration issue has largely disappeared from the presidential debate," said Mark Potok, editor of the SPLC's Intelligence Report, an investigative journal that monitors the radical right. "The fact is that they've been aided and abetted by mainstream pundits and politicians who give these haters a platform for their propaganda."
The greatest growth in hate groups came in California, Arizona and Texas, which had jumps of 27 percent, 70 percent, and 22 percent, respectively.
This issue of the Intelligence Report also includes profiles of 20 of the country's most influential anti-immigrant activists — the latest wave to join the movement (another set of nativist profiles was published in the Report's Winter 2005 issue).
These hardliners, ranging in age from 25 to 81, have advocated everything from forcibly sterilizing Mexican women to mining the U.S.-Mexican border. In the past three years, there have been some 300 anti-immigration groups founded; about half of that number are listed by the SPLC as "nativist extremist" groups. Some of these organizations are also listed as hate groups.
The most prominent name added to the hate group list this year is that of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, a group that has become one of the leading anti-immigration voices in the country but has for years had strong ties to white supremacists and white supremacist ideology.
"FAIR has been taken seriously for years by both the media and Congress, but it shouldn't be," said Potok. "Its officials have repeatedly revealed an anti-Latino and anti-Catholic bias. It has energetically promoted racist conspiracy theories about the immigration situation. And it has ties to white supremacists and hate groups."
The new issue of the Report lists each of the 888 groups operating in the United States and includes a U.S. map showing their locations. The groups include neo-Nazis, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, Klansmen and black separatists. Other groups target gays or immigrants, and some specialize in producing racist music or propaganda denying the Holocaust.