We've been pointing out for a long time the powerful connection between right-wing hate talk directed at illegal immigrants -- generated by the whole spectrum of media pundits and nativist anti-immigration organizations -- and the predictable and powerful explosion of hate crimes directed toward Latinos in recent years.
Indeed, the now-infamous case of Luis Ramirez in upstate Pennsylvania is not just a classic illustration of the problem, but equally a demonstration of the real need for a federal bias-crime statute.
More pointedly, perhaps, the case of Shawna Forde and her gang of Aryan Minutemen -- who killed a 9-year-old girl in cold blood in a botched home-invasion robbery in Arizona -- makes abundantly clear how the kind of anti-immigrant rhetoric being stirred up on the Right by "respectable" nativists like the Federation for Immigration reform is whipping extremists into their usually violent courses of action.
The Washington Post yesterday reported on the connection between the nativist immigrant-bashing that has been endemic to the immigration debate and these kinds of hate crimes:
U.S. civil rights leaders said yesterday that an increase in hate crimes committed in recent years against Hispanics and people perceived to be immigrants "correlates closely" to the nation's increasingly contentious debate over immigration.
Hate crimes targeting Hispanic Americans rose 40 percent from 2003 to 2007, the most recent year for which FBI statistics are available, from 426 to 595 incidents, marking the fourth consecutive year of increases.
As the report explains, the crimes are being whipped up by a combination of grotesquely irresponsible media figures like Lou Dobbs, Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck, and "respectable" nativist organizations such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Center for Immigration Studies.
All of these folks have adamantly denied they have anything to do with these crimes. Dobbs and O'Reilly have been patently disingenuous in running away from their culpability. Meanwhile, FAIR, CIS, and the rest of the John Tanton Network have done likewise.
And as Eric Ward observes, they're doing likewise in trying to flee their connection to Shawna Forde. Their press release responding to reports of the connection mostly continued to attack the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of their most persistent critics.
Well, as we reported, it's not entirely clear how Forde came to be identified as a "spokesperson for FAIR" at a 2006 immigration forum in Yakima. But what's more than abundantly clear is that the Minuteman Project organization which originally empowered Forde and with which she has extensive connections was heavily promoted by FAIR.
Forde has a particularly extensive background of connections to Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the Minuteman Project. She appeared onstage with Gilchrist in 2007 in Everett, Wash., at an "Immigration Summit" organized by local right-wingers.
Michael Hood wrote up a riveting account of this affair for The Stranger:
There was a sense of urgency in Gilchrist's speech at the 2007 Illegal Immigration Summit at the Everett Elks Lodge Saturday, June 30, an event that was cosponsored by a local group headed by Everett City Council candidate Shawna Forde.
Forde, 39, a peppy, blond, former Seattle grunge-rock promoter with her very own Minuteperson group (Minutemen American Defense), told the audience that in two years illegals would "outnumber real Americans." Fluency in Spanish would be rewarded, if not required, in the workplace. Forde said, "I was in my mall one day and, hey—nobody's speaking English. I realized we had a serious problem. I just got tired of pushing '1 for English.' I decided to do something about it."
Forde is running her Everett City Council campaign on an anti-immigration platform: She hopes to pass local ordinances against hiring and renting to illegals. "I'm through with people who don't belong in my country and who tax my system."
"The Great Gringo awakens from siesta..." the event's promos read, but the number of gringos wasn't all that great—about 100 newly awakened patriots were gathered while a dozen chanting protesters (whom Gilchrist called "anarchists") paraded outside on Rucker Avenue.
FAIR likewise has an extensive history with Gilchrist. FAIR's Dan Stein lauded the Minutemen loudly when they first emerged. FAIR plumped Gilchrist's appearance before Congress, and cohosted a media event with Gilchrist and the Minutemen. Gilchrist's Minuteman book (co-written with Jerome Corsi, of "Swift Boat" infamy) is on their "Suggested Reading" list.
And as Eric Ward observes, they have a history of having similarly incendiary speakers stand up as their representatives. They had no objection to Shawna Forde until she murdered a 9-year-old girl and her father.
And that really is the problem, isn't it? Not just with FAIR, but with all of these people who are fomenting hate crimes -- and doing so remorselessly.