AALDEF Joins Sikh Coalition and 150+ Organizations Demanding Senate Hate Crime Hearings

Tuesday, Aug 21, 2012

The Honorable Patrick Leahy
Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
437 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Chuck Grassley
Ranking Member, Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
135 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Re: Request for Hearing on Hate Crimes and Hate Groups in the United States

Dear Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Grassley:

We, the undersigned organizations, representing millions of diverse constituents around the nation, respectfully request that the Senate Judiciary Committee urgently conduct a hearing next month on the need to address hate crimes and the proliferation of hate groups in the United States.

This is not a theoretical concern: According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate groups in our country (currently numbering over a thousand) has grown by almost 60% since 2000. In 2010, more than 47% of hate crimes were racially motivated; 20% were motivated by the religion of the victim; 19% were based on sexual orientation and almost 13% of all hate crimes were based on ethnicity or national origin.

During the last month alone, six worshipers at a Sikh Gurdwara in Wisconsin were massacred by an attacker with known ties to hate groups, and approximately ten Islamic institutions and Muslim communities in seven states have experienced attacks including vandalism, a suspicious burning, shootings, and the desecration of religious sanctuaries. The Jewish community continues to experience persistent bias attacks, accounting for 65% of all religiously motivated hate crimes documented by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2010. Hate crimes based on anti-Hispanic bias accounted for nearly 67% of ethnically motivated crimes in 2010. Although African Americans made up only 12.4% of the U.S. population in 2010, they accounted for 70% of all racially motivated hate crimes that year. Thousands of other individuals in our nation continue to be affected by hate violence due to their race, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, disability, or immigration status.

According to hate crime statistics published by the FBI, there were at least 6,628 hate crimes reported in the United States in 2010. These incidents understate the problem of hate crimes in the United States, partly because of underreporting by victims, and partly because hate crime reporting by law enforcement agencies is voluntary. A 2005 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics suggested that the true number of hate crimes in the United States may be 15 times higher than that which is currently reported. Underreporting may be compounded by policies and political rhetoric (in support of broadscale racial profiling, for example) that could make hate crime victims apprehensive about immigration and law enforcement authorities.

Given the persistence of hate crimes and the proliferation of hate groups, we believe that a hearing is both timely and necessary. We are especially interested in examining the status of the implementation of the Matthew Shepard Act; improvements to hate crime reporting and data collection; and the need for more robust hate crime prevention measures, consistent with protections for First Amendment rights and civil liberties. For additional information, please contact Mr. Rajdeep Singh, Director of Law and Policy at the Sikh Coalition, at rajdeep@sikhcoalition.org or by phone at (202) 747-4944. We look forward to partnering with you to address these important issues and offer gratitude for your consideration.

Respectfully submitted,

Download letter and list of organizations [pdf]