Anti-Latino hate crimes surge in California

This isn't encouraging. The number of anti-Latino hate crimes increased nearly 50 percent in 2010 according to a state attorney general's office report. At the same time the total number of hate crimes against all groups rose only slightly.

Some experts are blaming draconian anti-immigration laws and hate radio:

Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, said the increase in anti-Latino crimes reflects increasing uneasiness with the rapidly growing Hispanic population combined with economic worries. Immigrants are especially a target of hate, he said.

"California has been one of the key states where the immigration debate has taken an ugly turn," he said. "It's no accident that everyone from mainstream politicians to organized hate groups are piling on the bandwagon of fear, destroying meaningful discourse."

Gilberto Esquivel, a member of the Riverside Human Relations Commission, attributed the bias-crime rise to incendiary rhetoric tied to last year's passage of an Arizona law cracking down on undocumented immigrants.

Anti-Latino and anti-immigrant remarks became more numerous and hateful on conservative talk radio, in newspaper letters to editors and on the Internet, Esquivel said.

"The hate is there," he said. "This gives it legitimacy."

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