LatinaLista — There’s no denying that hate crimes and violence against people of color, religion, and sexual preference seem to be on the rise.
Of course, the latest hate crime is the Holocaust Museum murderer but there are countless incidents of vandalism, harassment and assault against people of color and gays and lesbians that never even get reported.
In a country that prides itself on freedom on all levels, is it right that certain people continue to be targeted and abused?
The answer is NO but feelings of helplessness and fear of retaliation are strong deterrents for reporting any crimes where someone is trying to exert control over another.
Due to the recent high-profiled hate crime cases that have left innocent people dead at the hands of intolerant teenagers or prejudice-blinded attackers, several members of Congress are doing something to combat hate crimes by putting the power back into the hands of the victims.
U.S. Reps. Nydia M. VelÃ¡zquez (D-NY), Steve Israel (D-NY) and JosÃ© E. Serrano (D-NY) announced the introduction of the National Hate Crimes Hotline Act of 2009.
The hotline is modeled after the National Domestic Violence Hotline and is a toll-free number for victims to either report a hate crime or receive counseling or mental and physical health services.
In 2005, a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) that analyzed 3.5 years of date from the National Crime Victimization Survey found that compared to the thousands of hate crimes that occurred less than 45 percent ever got reported.
Reasons? — “Language barriers, the fear of discovery of immigration status and — perceived futility.”
Part of that perceived futility is that local laws may not be as strong as the federal laws combatting hate crimes and the record on the federal level of bringing hate crimes to justice remains poor.
Currently, only thirty one states and the District of Columbia include sexual orientation-based crimes in their hate crimes statutes; only twenty-six states and the District of Columbia, include coverage of gender-based crimes; only eleven states and the District of Columbia include coverage of gender-identity based crimes, and only thirty states and the District of Columbia include coverage for disability-based crimes.
For all these reasons, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 (LLEHCPA) was introduced in Congress and is now under Senate review.
One of the most noteworthy aspects of this bill is that it enables the Justice Department to help state and local authorities, who are unable or unwilling, to take the lead in investigations and prosecutions of violent crime motivated by bias and resulting in death or serious bodily injury.
The LLEHCPA also makes grants available to state and local communities to combat violent crimes committed by juveniles, train law enforcement officers, or to assist in state and local investigations and prosecutions of bias motivated crimes.
The LLEHCPA bill is unfortunately a necessary piece of legislation to counter the festering growth of hate in this country. In certain cases, where we have seen that local officials or court systems have failed to bring to justice the perpetrators of hate crimes, the necessity of the federal government implementing the law is clear.
Hurting or killing someone based on their looks or sexual preferences is wrong and those who play God deserve to be judged fully for their actions by their fellow men and women.