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Hate Crimes Against Latinos Rise In California

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Hate crimes against Latinos in California have grown by almost 50 percent between 2009 and 2010. Meanwhile, the number of attacks against other groups continues to go down.

By law, a hate crime is a criminal act targeting someone because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. Last year in California, there were 119 documented hate crimes against ethnic Latinos or Latin American immigrants. In 2009, that number stood at 81 statewide.

"Latinos are identified as one of the most prominent immigrant groups," said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino. "That, coupled with demographic changes and long-term structural changes to the economy, I think has also influenced the targeting as well."

California does a better job of collecting hate crime data than other states in the Southwestern region, notably Texas and Arizona. According to Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, those states may actually see higher rates of violence against Latinos, but do not track them as hate crimes.

"The fact that California now reports a rise in 2010, and that California has done historically quite a good job at collecting these types of numbers, really brings up the question of are we seeing a rise in the anti-Latino hate crimes nationally?" said Potok.

According to Potok, the hate crime rate is likely to be much higher than the data shows, since many victims of hate crimes, and many immigrants, are afraid to come forward.

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