Mar 14, 2024 - News

Racist rhetoric stokes fears

A wreath with flowers hangs at a memorial site.

A photo of Javier Amir Rodriguez at a memorial to the victims of a 2019 shooting in which 23 people were killed in El Paso. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Latino activists and political leaders worry that increasingly harsh and racist rhetoric about immigrants — particularly by former President Trump and his MAGA supporters — is fueling a surge in the already record-breaking number of hate crimes against Latinos.

Why it matters: Their concerns are rising amid political campaigns targeting immigrants, a stalemate in Congress over plans to tighten border security, and a projected backlog this year of 8 million asylum seekers and other immigrants seeking to stay in the U.S., Axios' Russell Contreras writes.

State of play: The most recent FBI data shows anti-Latino hate crimes across the country hit a record high of 738 in 2022 — as the ongoing migrant crisis grew and acceptance grew for the once-fringe "white replacement theory" pushed by far-right media outlets.

Zoom in: The FBI will release figures for 2023 later this year. However, in a recent study of hate crimes in 10 major cities, San Antonio was among the three that saw decreases in overall hate crimes.

  • San Antonio had an 8% drop while Austin and Houston's hate crimes increased by 7% and 193%, respectively.

Trump repeatedly has said undocumented immigrants are "poisoning the blood of our country."

Between the lines: An Axios review of data from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, found that since 2016 hate crimes against Latinos spiked during various news events involving them or after comments made by Trump.

  • For example, anti-Latino hate crimes skyrocketed by more than 50% in July 2018 from the previous month, at the height of the Trump administration's family separation policy at the border.

What they're saying: "We've seen a correlation between brazen, anti-Latino immigrant rhetoric and anti-Latino hate crimes in recent years," Brian Levin, the recently retired director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, tells Axios.

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