Hostility, unfounded accusations common in debate, 2 groups find
By Susan Ferriss
Tucson, Arizona | Published: http://www.azstarnet.com/allheadlines/213009
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Whether it's in conversation, on Web sites or flowing from cable TV and radio talk shows, the shrillness of the anti-illegal-immigration debate has become disturbing, say two groups that monitor hate speech.
The Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center has produced reports on anti-Latino rhetoric, and the Anti-Defamation League, founded to expose anti-Semitism, issued a report in October called, "Immigrants Targeted: Extremist Rhetoric Moves Into the Mainstream."
Rational debate over immigration has been drowned out by the noise of unfounded accusations that illegal immigrants are the driving force behind problems such as identity theft and rising health insurance costs.
Anti-illegal-immigration activists say they are just holding the line against opponents they accuse of wanting "open borders." They believe they represent the will of the majority.
"There is no doubt that immigration is a necessary debate," said Deborah Lauter, the Anti-Defamation League's civil-rights director. "But it must remain civil."
The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, Sacramento-based head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, met last week with several U.S. religious leaders in Washington, D.C., to denounce extremist language.
It's time, he said, to "clearly state that we all desire to protect our borders and apply the rule of law. But we will not embrace the nativist and discriminatory rhetoric articulated under the guise of border protection."
The vitriolic anti-illegal- immigration dialogue the ADL studied demonizes immigrants, foments fear and spreads unfounded propaganda, the report says.
Researchers with the ADL reviewed Web sites, news reports and activists' media appearances to compile their report.
CNN's Lou Dobbs comes under fire for what the group calls "false propaganda" about illegal immigrants and disease that he refused to recant. TV pundit Pat Buchanan is criticized for spreading xenophobia in his book, "State of Siege," in which he describes Latino immigration as a mortal cultural threat
Mark Potok, a lead researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said, "One of the most obnoxious elements out there are mainstream media talk show hosts perfectly willing to popularize ideas that have no basis in reality."
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, is cited by the ADL for calling illegal immigration a "slow-motion terrorist attack." He also wrote on his Web site that "murderous illegal immigrants" kill 12 U.S. citizens every day, a claim Potok called "extreme hogwash."
The ADL report also cites Michelle Dallacroce, a Phoenix woman who grew up in Chicago and has become a popular talk-show guest. She started a group called Mothers Against Illegal Aliens after she became alarmed at the growth of Latino day laborers in Phoenix and upset that schools sent kids home with bilingual notes.
Dallacroce said schools are struggling with too many children who don't speak English and that she opposes U.S. citizenship for children born to illegal immigrants.
On her Web site, she writes that former Mexican President Vicente Fox "said he will take over the United States with sheer numbers without ever firing a shot."
In an interview, Dallacroce said she could not provide a source for Fox's alleged words.