Criminal Justice, Immigration, Race

Impact of immigration on anti-Hispanic hate crime in the United States

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Last updated: November 13, 2012

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Hispanics are the largest minority group in the United States, and with greater prominence has come heightened tensions. Like many minorities, Latino immigrants suffer from negative stereotyping — for example, that they hijack jobs or are reluctant to adopt mainstream language and cultural practices.

Actions by antagonistic individuals against immigrant populations are not formally documented by federal organizations. In fact, crimes against immigrant groups are not considered hate crimes, per se — there is no category specific to such groups. Instead, the Federal Bureau of Investigation defines hate crimes as criminal offenses that are motivated on the whole or in part due to the offender’s bias against race, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation.

A 2011 study from Virginia Union University and the University of Missouri published in the Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, “The Impact of Immigration on Anti-Hispanic Hate Crime in the United States,” analyzes FBI, Census and Department of Homeland Security data to determine incidence levels of anti-Hispanic hate crime in periods and places with higher levels of immigration.

The study’s findings include:

  • Immigration increased through 2002, dropped in 2003 and rose again in 2004. The hate crime rate against Hispanics also fell through 2003 and rose again in 2004.
  • States reported an average of 10 anti-Hispanic crimes each year between 2000 and 2004, with nearly twice as many hate crimes in the West and Northeast. The difference in reported hate crimes is in spite of the fact that immigration appears evenly distributed across regions, with an average overall immigration rate of 1,464 per 100,000.
  • The FBI found 44% of hate crimes against Hispanics were property crimes (vandalism) and 56% were personal crimes (intimidation representing a majority of offenses).
  • Where Hispanics are more numerous, hate crimes against them are less frequent.
  • Roughly 21% of reporting agencies reported zero anti-Hispanic hate crimes.
  • Neither the measure of economic threat, nor overall state economic conditions, nor white-to-Hispanic unemployment had a measurable impact on anti-Hispanic hate crime.

The authors note that the study’s narrow focus on legal immigration limits the findings. Because undocumented immigrants generally follow similar settlement patterns, however — and because potential hate crime offenders cannot distinguish immigration status — the researchers state that they expect similar results among undocumented immigrants. A further limitation of the study is the issue of under-reporting. Hate crimes against immigrant populations often go unreported as immigrants fear deportation. The authors encourage new reporting mechanisms that include sanctuary policies to ensure that undocumented immigrants can report crimes without incurring a risk of deportation.

Tags: Latino, Hispanic, crime, civil rights


Writer: | November 13, 2012

Citation: Stacey, Michele; Carbone-López, Kristin; Rosenfeld, Richard. "Demographic Change and Ethnically Motivated Crime: The Impact of Immigration on Anti-Hispanic Hate Crime in the United States," Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, August 2011, Vol. 27, No. 3, 278-298. doi: 10.1177/1043986211412560.

Analysis assignments

Read the issue-related Huffington Post article titled "Anti-Latino Hate Crimes Rise as Immigration Debate Intensifies."

  1. What key insights from the news article and the study in this lesson should reporters be aware of as they cover these issues?

Read the full study titled "The Impact of Immigration on Anti-Hispanic Hate Crime in the United States."

  1. What are the study's key technical term(s)? Which ones need to be put into language a lay audience can understand?
  2. Do the study’s authors put the research into context and show how they are advancing the state of knowledge about the subject? If so, what did the previous research indicate?
  3. What is the study’s research method? If there are statistical results, how did the scholars arrive at them?
  4. Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example, are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
  5. How could the findings be misreported or misinterpreted by a reporter? In other words, what are the difficulties in conveying the data accurately? Give an example of a faulty headline or story lead.

Newswriting and digital reporting assignments

  1. Write a lead, headline or nut graph based on the study.
  2. Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
  3. Compose two Twitter messages of 140 characters or fewer accurately conveying the study’s findings to a general audience. Make sure to use appropriate hashtags.
  4. Choose several key quotations from the study and show how they would be set up and used in a brief blog post.
  5. Map out the structure for a 60-second video segment about the study. What combination of study findings and visual aids could be used?
  6. Find pictures and graphics that might run with a story about the study. If appropriate, also find two related videos to embed in an online posting. Be sure to evaluate the credibility and appropriateness of any materials you would aggregate and repurpose.

Class discussion questions

  1. What is the study’s most important finding?
  2. Would members of the public intuitively understand the study’s findings? If not, what would be the most effective way to relate them?
  3. What kinds of knowledgeable sources you would interview to report the study in context?
  4. How could the study be “localized” and shown to have community implications?
  5. How might the study be explained through the stories of representative individuals? What kinds of people might a reporter feature to make such a story about the study come alive?
  6. What sorts of stories might be generated out of secondary information or ideas discussed in the study?

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