This Week in Hate: State of hate crimes 18 months post election

Mahnoor Hussain | Policy Associate, SAALT

On May 11, 2018, SAALT’s Executive Director, Suman Raghunathan, testified at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights public hearing “In the Name of Hate: Examining the Federal Government’s Role in Responding to Hate Crimes.” The Commission called on law enforcement, community stakeholders, policy and legal experts, and federal officials to share best practices on collecting and reporting data on hate crimes and in prosecution and prevention of these heinous acts.

In SAALT’s 2018 report “Communities on Fire” we draw a direct line between this administration’s anti-Muslim agenda and increasing attacks. Of the 213 documented incidents of hate violence aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Arab, and Middle Eastern Americans during the first year of this presidential administration, one in five perpetrators invoked President Trump’s name, one of his administration’s policies (the Muslim Ban), or one of his campaign slogans (“Make America Great Again”) while committing the attack.

To date, a year and a half since the 2016 presidential election, SAALT has documented a total of 361 incidents of both hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric targeting our communities. Between April 13, 2018 and May 18, 2018 alone, we have documented eight incidents of hate violence and two incidents of xenophobic political rhetoric. Of the eight incidents of hate violence, there were four incidents of verbal/written threats, three physical assaults, and one incident of property damage.

Fig: Types of Hate Incidents Pre & Post Election

INSTITUTIONALIZED HATE

The current administration has shifted its focus from holding law enforcement and federal agencies accountable for documenting and addressing hate violence in our communities.

The administration has gone so far as to implement institutional strategies which criminalize communities of color through the creation of a “Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety” and the office of “Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement” (VOICE) . Both the Task Force and VOICE office advance the flawed narrative of immigrants as perpetrators of crimes and ignore the growing problem of white supremacist violence targeting our communities.

Legislative recommendations supporting this flawed approach have also been advanced that provide additional protection for Federal, State, tribal, and local law enforcement officers, an already protected class.

H.R. 5698, the Protect and Serve Act of 2018, which the U.S. House of Representatives passed last week, uses the federal hate crimes framework to punish criminal offenses targeting law enforcement or those perceived to be law enforcement. The bill is a political response to the growing national movement for police accountability in the face of continued killings and assaults of African Americans.

SAALT joined our national partners in stating publicly that this bill wrongly extends hate crimes protections to a group that does not need them. Law enforcement officials are not vulnerable to bias or discrimination in the same manner as people of color and other historically marginalized communities. During a time when police accountability is critical to bridging the sorely needed trust gap this bill stands to further erode trust.

HATE CRIMES ARE UNDERREPORTED

During the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hearing, panelists were asked to respond to the question: Has there been an increase in hate crimes or rather an increase in reporting?

The truth of the matter is, hate crimes in our communities are severely underreported.

Data from the National Crime Victimization Survey suggest that underreporting may be occurring at a factor of over 40:1. Furthermore, the more recently revealed lack of compliance in reporting hate crimes from federal agencies with law enforcement functions is deeply problematic. A 2017 ProPublica investigation revealed that 120 federal agencies did not comply with mandates to submit hate crime data to the FBI. In fact, the FBI itself is not submitting the hate crimes it investigates to its own database.

Currently, there is no mandate for reporting hate crimes data at any level of government, which leads to skewed data and shifts the burden to communities for both reporting and documentation.This is one of the many issues that the NO HATE Act addresses through federal legislation.

The NO HATE Act is the only comprehensive federal legislation proposed to establish incentives for state and local law enforcement to submit credible and complete hate crime reports, create grants for state-run hate crime hotlines, create a federal private right of action, and allow for judges to require community service or educational programming for individuals convicted under the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

RECOMMENDATIONS

SAALT offered the following recommendations at the hearing to improve the process of tracking and reporting hate crimes at the local and federal levels:

  1. Prioritize post 9/11 and current levels of hate violence as an issue of significant concern to the federal government.
  2. Ensure preventative measures are responsive to the needs of our communities.
    a) Directs U.S. Attorney’s Offices around the country to create local task forces that engage with local community organizations to develop prevention plans and risk assessment tools.
  3. Ensure responses to incidents of hate violence are coordinated, comprehensive, and accommodate the specific needs of our communities.
    a) Develop rapid response plans and protocols to address hate violence.
    b) Mandate the collection of hate crimes data by all national and local law enforcement agencies.
    c) Explore restorative justice approaches that help reduce over reliance on the criminal justice system, which disproportionately criminalizes communities of color.

You can read all of our recommendations and the rest of Suman’s hearing testimony here.

You can view the archived hearing testimonies on YouTube (morning session, afternoon session, public comment). More details about the speakers and submitted written testimony is available here.

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South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

A national social justice org working on policy analysis/advocacy on issues affecting the South Asian community: immigration, post 9/11 backlash. www.saalt.org