Anti-immigrant sentiment is fueling nationwide increases in the number of hate groups and the number of hate crimes targeting Latinos, said a Southern Poverty Law Center report quoted by the Associated Press. The center counted 888 hate groups in its latest tally, up from 844 in 2006 and 602 in 2000. One group added to the “hate” list, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), rejected the label and accused the center of using smear tactics to boost donations and stiflling legitimate debate on immigration.
The law center’s report contends there is a link between anti-immigrant activism and the significant rise in hate crimes against Latinos in recent years. An FBI compilation says that 819 people were victimized by anti-Latino hate crimes in 2006, compared with 595 in 2003. Critics of the law center contend that the periodic reports on hate groups exaggerate the threat to public safety and inflate the total by including entities that are little more than Web sites or online chatrooms. A center official acknowledged some of the groups may be small and said it is impossible for outsiders to gauge the membership of most of the groups. The center’s critique of FAIR was endorsed by a major Latino group, the National Council of La Raza.