In the absence of federal immigration reform which would allow undocumented immigrants to gain legal status, local politicians in Long Island and Arizona have not only tolerated hate crimes but also promoted policies which harm undocumented immigrants. These actions, combined with popular discontent about economic and demographic changes in the country, have increased the number of hate crimes against Hispanics. This article demonstrates such increase, and argues that immigration reform is needed to reduce the current climate of violence and impunity.
As if these hardships were not enough, it seems that in the near future things will get worse for Latino immigrants due to rising anti-immigrant and extremist groups. The number of known anti-immigrant groups in the United States grew from 173 in 2008 to 309 in 2009. That is 80% growth in one year. The number of extremist organizations also grew 244%, from 149 in 2008 to 512 in 2009. The Department of Homeland Security recognizes that these groups have the potential to incite violence against Latino immigrants. But that is already true. It has been repeatedly shown that anti-immigrant and extremist groups are becoming more violent against this population. This increase in violence is due to the mistaken perception that undocumented immigrants do not pay taxes, receive government assistance and take jobs away from citizens of this country. But the truth speaks for itself. According to an article published by the American Bar Association, 74% of economists argue that undocumented immigrants have had a positive impact in the U.S. economy. The Congressional Budget Office confirms the aforementioned argument, estimating that 50-70% of undocumented immigrants pay state and federal taxes, and that they contribute with $7billion towards Social Security every year.
To reduce the current wave of violence, stem the growth of anti-immigrant groups, regain the immigrant population's trust in the police, and punish perpetrators of hate crimes, it is necessary that the government begin to promote reform of immigration laws. Such action would bring multiple benefits. First, immigration reform will improve security in the nation. Police officers around the country have expressed that the lack of immigration reform creates obstacles to the effectiveness of their work because undocumented immigrants victims of hate crime do not report these incidents to the authorities for fear of being deported. There is no doubt then that the regulation of the legal status of immigrants would encourage them to report hate crimes because they will not be afraid to be detained or face legal challenges. The greater the number of criminals in prisons, the better the security in the nation. Second, immigration reform will bring more confidence in the police. In Suffolk County, Long Island, after the death of an Ecuadorean immigrant victim of hate crime, police began listening to the concerns of the Latino population more closely and working to gain their trust. As a result, eight of nine robberies and hate crimes perpetrated against Latinos in a period of four months were reported to the police in that county. When undocumented immigrants obtain legal status, their collaboration with the police is expected to increase, as they will not be afraid to freely denounce any crime. Third, immigration reform will reduce impunity. Today more than half of hate crimes are not reported to the police; this means that perpetrators of these crimes still roam the streets in search of new victims. When immigrants feel no fear of reporting these crimes the weight of the law will fall on these criminals and the country will continue to be seen as a symbol of freedom where the law is applied without discrimination.