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Finally, Congress working on empowering victims of hate crimes

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. Velázquez (D-NY), Steve Israel (D-NY) and José 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.

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  • cookie
    June 15, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    This is a sneaky way of protecting illegal aliens in our country. We weren’t all born yesterday. Has it ever occured to our government that hate crimes against them and their enablers would decrease greatly if they secured our borders and enforced our immigration laws? Until they wise up and do just that, the nutcases will continue to come out of the woodwork and our government has to shoulder some of the blame for it.

  • Horace
    June 15, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    Hate crime laws are stupid. The holocaust killer will probably get life in prison, if he survives, and that’s without a hate crime law. What’s it going to get the 80-year old man, double-life sentences? Murder is murder, regardless of the motive. Hate crime laws are just gratuitous vengeance on the part of left wingnuts. Hate crime laws improve nothing when it comes to meting out justice or preventing crime. It’s funny that after more than two hundred years of laws against violence, liberals through their haughty feelings of superior wisdom and arrogance, manage to invent a new crime.

  • Traci
    June 17, 2009 at 6:04 am

    Horace is right, Marisa, what additional measure of justice does the characterization “hate crime” provide to the people of this country? If someone kills another in cold blood, without malice, but merely out of greed, is that any less a crime than if the motive were done out of hate? This use of the term “hate crime” has no rational basis, but seems to be rooted in politics.

  • Marisa Treviño
    June 17, 2009 at 8:14 am

    No, I think you’re both mistaken. Murder, in and of itself, is a crime of highest measure but we are talking about premeditated intent. A crime committed out of greed is usually more of a random act — targeting anyone who is walking down the street. A hate crime, as defined by federal law, is not random in targeting specific individuals who fit the profile that the perpetrator is going after. Unfortunately, hate crimes have evolved to where there is a rational and necessary basis for their existence because there is something inherently sinister in targeting people of only one demographic.

  • Traci
    June 17, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    Inherently sinister? Again your argument introduces politics into what should be simple justice. I believe that every person should be treated equally under the law. The only difference between one murderer and another is what’s in his/her mind. If the so-called hater never openly expresses their hate, but that is indeed what’s in the back of their mind, then he cannot be tried for your so-called hate crime. I don’t believe in inventing new variations on crime for political purposes.

  • cookie
    June 17, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Bank robbers do pre-meditate their crimes. I would imagine that most thieves do stake out someone who seems vulnerable to attack and rob also.
    Most murders that do occur are because an individual is hated by the killer. Most murders are not random. What difference does it make if it is a particular group of people that are hated by the killer or killers? Hate is hate and murder is murder. None of it good. It is no surprise if Latinos are the target of hate for some today since so many of them are in our country illegally or are aiders and abetors of them. I don’t advocate it but Evelyn advocates hate towards whites for past history and yet where is the outrage over that?

  • Karen
    June 17, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Marisa, there are lots of premeditated murders that do not target individuals based on race, ehtnicity or religion. To me, ‘hate crime,’ seems to smack of ‘thought crime’ and I think it is political.
    In Los Angeles, when a black person kills an Latino person, it is considered just random street crime, but if a Latino person kills a black person, then it is automatically a ‘hate crime.’ All murders are evil and heinous no matter the intent or the victim.
    So yes, I do think it’s political BS.

  • Texan123
    June 17, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    So, if a white, christian, doctor is beaten and robbed by a brown skinned, gay person, is that a hate crime? How do you prove premeditation? What if the brown skinned robber commented against rich, white Americans on a blog site before the beating?
    Hate Crime laws are dangerous because they hold crime against some as “special” or more dispicable than against others. This is not equality, it is preferencial treatment for special interest groups.

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