January 28, 2019

Midyear 2019: Why are hate crimes rising?

For more than 200 years, the United States been a beacon of hope for millions of immigrants. It has welcomed the poor and the persecuted from all over the world – people fleeing violence and prejudice in their home countries.

So how did the United States – with its Statute of Liberty welcoming “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” – become home to so many hate crimes against minorities and immigrants?

Those on the frontlines of the issue will discuss the state of affairs at the American Bar Association Midyear Meeting in Las Vegas, during a program titled “The Rising Tide of Hate: How Welcoming the Stranger in a Nation of Immigrants Has Turned Violent.” Sponsored by the ABA Commission on Immigration, it will be held Saturday, Jan. 26, at 10 a.m. in the Caesar’s Palace Octavius Ballroom 7-8.

In 2017, the FBI reported 7,175 hate crimes nationwide, up 17 percent from 6,121 hate crimes the previous year. Further, 60 percent of the incidents were based on race, ethnicity or ancestry. The actual number of hate crimes against immigrants and refugees is likely significantly higher, since many noncitizens are reluctant to report crimes to police.

On Oct. 25, at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, a lone gunman stormed the building and opened fire, killing 11 congregants. While his intentions were clearly anti-Semitic, he also ranted on social media about Jews helping refugees, specifically mentioning the nonprofit group HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, that works to protect refugees and others around the world.

What is causing this disturbing trend of violence and how have increased nationalism and xenophobia contributed to it?

Panelists will discuss how legal, social and community groups that serve immigrants and refugees have responded to recent events, and what the legal profession can do to reverse the trend.

Panelists are:

  • Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, (moderator)
  • Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS
  • Michael Kagan, law professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • Mayra Salinas-Menjivar, legal services fellow and attorney at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The program is co-sponsored by the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, Commission on Homelessness and Poverty,  Council on Diversity in the Educational Pipeline and Standing Committee on Public Education.

For more immigration-related programming during the Midyear Meeting, see summary on the commission’s webpage