Federal Hate Crimes Legislation Passes House of Representatives

MALDEF urges swift passage by Senate to combat growing anti-Latino hate crimes

April 30, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the nation’s leading legal civil rights organization, welcomed news that the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1913, “Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009” by a vote of 249 to 175. The bill strengthens existing federal hate crime laws by authorizing the Department of Justice to assist local authorities in investigating and prosecuting certain bias-motivated crimes. The bill would also provide authority for the federal government to prosecute some violent bias-motivated crimes directed against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.

“The House of Representatives has demonstrated courageous leadership in approving the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act, H.R. 1913. Given the 40 percent rise in hate crimes against Latinos in recent years, this is exactly the legislation necessary to help address the unacceptable violence which threatens our communities,” said John Amaya, MALDEF Legislative Staff Attorney.

The bill comes at a critical juncture – in the midst of an anti-Latino hate crime epidemic where hates crimes committed against Latinos have risen more than 40 percent in the last few years. In July 2008, Mexican immigrant Luis Ramirez was assaulted and killed in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania by a group of teenagers yelling ethnic slurs before, during, and after the attack. In November of that same year, a group of teenagers attacked several Latinos in Patchogue, New York, including Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero, who died of seven stab wounds to the chest. Only a month later, another Ecuadorean immigrant, Jose Osvaldo Sucuzhañay was beaten into a coma in Brooklyn, New York by a group of men yelling anti-Latino and anti-gay epithets. He died five days later.

“MALDEF will continue to push for this legislation and urges the Senate to act swiftly in order to provide state and local enforcement with the necessary backstop that permits federal authorities to offer assistance in hate crime investigations – and allow federal prosecutions when state and local authorities are unable or unwilling to act,” stated Henry Solano, Interim President and General Counsel of MALDEF and former federal prosecutor as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and former U.S. Attorney for Colorado. “This is an added tool of law enforcement similar to other significant criminal laws where there is both federal and local authority to protect the rights of individuals and communities.”

For all media inquiries, please contact Laura Rodriguez.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund