Study: Immigration debate fuels hate group growth

Sunday, March 16th 2008, 10:57 pm
By: News 9

By Rusty Surette, NEWS 9

A new report suggests illegal immigration is fueling a spike in hate groups across America.

In its latest report, the Southern Poverty Law Center listed more than a dozen hate groups, like the KKK, in Oklahoma. The report states groups are using the illegal immigration debate as a way to increase membership, but one member disagrees.

Robert Stock lives in El Reno and is a proud member of the League of the South, one of 13 hate groups the SPLC says is operating in Oklahoma.

"The Southern Poverty Law Center isn't concerned about accuracy," Stock said. "The Center isn't concerned about the truth."

The SPLC is a watchdog organization that targets hate groups, but Stock said his group is a political organization that doesn't promote hate.

However, it does have a problem with illegal immigration.

"The very fact that it's got ‘illegal' in the name, it says it all right there," Stock said.

Stock said he thinks a number of groups like the League are being targeted by the SPLC for their opposition to illegal immigration.

"That would mean, according to the SPLC, the majority of the population of Oklahoma is part of a hate group, because a majority of Oklahomans don't want illegal aliens in our state," Stock said.

In its report titled The Year in Hate, the SPLC counted 888 hate groups across America in 2007, a 48 percent increase since 2000.  

The number of hate groups in Oklahoma has declined from 2006 to 2007, from 16 to 13.  

Michael Brooks-Jimenez is an immigration attorney in Oklahoma City and said he agrees with the SPLC.

"In the past, the KKK and these other organizations, their membership had began to dwindle, they've used immigration as an issue to try to legitimatize the racism they've always espoused," he said.

Brooks-Jimenez said although the number of groups has declined in Oklahoma it's still a dangerous and deadly issue.

"The number of hate crimes against Latinos right now, it seems to be escalating, so I think it's just dangerous," he said.

According to FBI stats 819 people were victims of anti-Hispanic crimes in 2006.