This weekend members of a Minutemen group were arrested for murdering a Latino father and his 9-year-old daughter in Arizona.
Last month, two young white men accused of beating to death a Mexican man, Luis Ramirez, in Pennsylvania were acquitted of the serious charges of hate crimes and third-degree murder. They were only convicted of simple assault.
The FBI reports that hate crimes against Latinos rose by over 40 percent from 2003 to 2007.
All Americans should be concerned.
In the recent events, authorities arrested Shawna Forde, the national executive director of the Minutemen American Defense organization and Jason Eugene Bush, 38, also a member of this Minutemen group. Also arrested was Albert Robert Gaxiola, 43.
Authorities said the motive may have been financial, as the father, Raul Flores, had alleged ties to drug dealers and money in the home. It was reported that Forde was working to raise money for her anti-immigration efforts.
But this is no excuse for murdering a little girl, Brisenia Flores. There are many members of other Minutemen groups who are on record saying
hateful things about undocumented immigrants and Mexicans. You may
recall their movement gained steam in 2005 with a deployment to stop
undocumented immigrants from crossing the border. You can find videos
of Minutemen on YouTube and see their racist rants.
In San Diego two years ago, Minutemen made an effigy of a priest as the
devil and hurled obscenities at children going to their First
Communion. This was all because a priest allowed his church to serve as
a day-labor site.
They have even brought their hateful message to Chicago. Chris Simcox,
a co-founder of the Minutemen, was invited by conservative students to
speak at DePaul University last year.
Simcox is on record saying in 2003, "We're going to defend our borders
by any means necessary." He also said illegal immigrants are "trashing
their neighborhoods, refusing to assimilate, standing on street
corners, jeering at little girls walking on their way to school."
Now we have some rogue members of the Minutemen allegedly going on a murderous rampage.
Of course their Minutemen group has condemned the killing on their Web site.
But hate leads some people to spiral out of control. We saw this last
week at the Holocaust Museum shooting in Washington, D.C.
But what is even more maddening is when people get away with murder.
Ramirez, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, was beaten and later
died after an attack by a group of drunk young white men in
Pennsylvania in July of 2008. He was walking down the street with a
white woman at the time, and he was engaged to a U.S. citizen.
At a preliminary hearing, a retired Philadelphia police officer
testified she heard one of the attackers yell "Tell your [expletive]
Mexican friends to get the [expletive] out of Shenandoah or you'll be
[expletive] laying next to him."
The comments were for Ramirez's friends who came after he called them
for help. But during the trial the defense tried to paint an image of
Ramirez as the aggressor.
Now the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) is waging a
campaign to get the Department of Justice to file federal hate crime
charges against his attackers. They have an online petition and you can
sign it here.
Illegal immigrants are victimized. Mexicans are too often treated like second-class citizens.
A friend reminded me of a line in a speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. about Vietnam that has resonance today.
"A time comes when silence is betrayal," King said.
Let us not be silent.