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Politicians Beware:  Your Immigrant Bashing on the Campaign Trail Has Consequences

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Washington, DC – A federal grand jury has convicted two Pennsylvania men of committing a hate crime in the murder of Luis Ramirez in 2008.  The verdict is welcome and long overdue.  Now, it’s time for politicians and media personalities to end the hateful rhetoric and immigrant bashing that has created a hostile climate for Latinos and encouraged hate crimes like the murder of Mr. Ramirez.

This campaign season, a number of candidates are running race-baiting campaign ads that demonize immigrants, and using extreme, anti-immigrant rhetoric in their voter outreach.  Republican Senate candidates David Vitter (R-LA) and Sharron Angle of Nevada are both running anti-immigrant ads that paint Latinos as dangerous criminals, freeloaders, and the enemies of native-born Americans.    

The FBI reports that hate crimes against Latinos rose 32% between 2003 and 2008 (the last year for which data is available), and groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center have documented a correlation between anti-immigrant rhetoric and anti-Latino violence.

According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice: “Hateful campaign ads and rhetoric that demonize immigrants have no place in America today.  It’s as if some politicians think there is no cost for immigrant-bashing.  Well they are wrong.  This type of rhetoric creates a climate where violent crimes are committed against human beings simply because of the color of their skin.  Yesterday’s verdict in the Luis Ramirez murder is just, but it’s not nearly enough.  Politicians and pundits must stop using immigrants as scapegoats and instead use their microphones to spread a message of tolerance, humanity, and the need for common sense immigration reform.”        

On July 14, 2008, Ramirez was beaten to death by a group of teenagers who yelled racial epithets throughout the killing.  A retired Philadelphia police officer said she heard one of the defendants yell to Mr. Ramirez’s friends, “Tell your [expletive] Mexican friends to get the [expletive] out of Shenandoah or you’ll be [expletive] laying next to him.”  Defendants were reported to have yelled, “Go back to Mexico” as they beat him to death.

Despite the evidence, an all-white jury found two of the defendants “not guilty” of third-degree murder and ethnic intimidation last year, to cheers in the courtroom and the astonishment of the Latino community.  The Federal government took up the case and finally justice was served.

But appeals are coming, even some questioning whether Mr. Ramirez’ legal status should prevent him from receiving the protection of the Federal government.

“Luis Ramirez lost his life because a group of people hates immigrants.  This kind of thing should not happen in America.  Politicians who stoke racial fears and hatred need to realize that their rhetoric has severe consequences for communities and our country.  It’s time to end the politics of division, and work together on a common solution to the broken immigration system,” Tramonte concluded.

America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform