MALDEF

NCLR Death Threat Punished in Court of Law

As NCLR President and CEO Janet Murgia has often stated: "Words have consequences, and hateful words have hateful consequences."  It doesn't take much to connect the rising level of anti-immigrant rhetoric and misinformation to the rising level of hate crimes committed towards Latinos. Recently:
Christopher Michael Szaz was sentenced [on October 1] in North Carolina for emailing a death threat to the staff of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). Szaz plead guilty to one count of threat by force via email communication to NCLR. He was sentenced to 45 days in federal prison and has to serve 100 hours of community service. In his email to NCLR, Szaz referred to Hispanics using a racial epithet and threatened to kill members of the staff and splay their bodies. NCLR and other community advocates believe that this has to be seen as a part of a larger pattern of hate directed at immigrants, as the debate on immigration continues to loom in the national psyche. Szaz's prosecution sends an important message to others engaging in this type of action that it is a federal crime punishable in a court of law.

[...]

According to the FBI, hate crimes targeting Latinos have risen steadily in the last few years. Through its website, http://www.wecanstopthehate.org/, NCLR has been working to raise awareness of this increase and the ties to white supremacy and eugenics that many of the anti-immigrant groups have.

Although the target of Szaz's hate was a national group, the rise of national hate crimes also has local implications. Andrea Bazán is a Latina activist in North Carolina, and the Triangle Community Foundation is one of North Carolina's largest foundations. Ms. Bazán said that Szaz's threats were part of what prompted NCLR to invest $100,000 in increased security measures and for her to feel compelled to ask Durham police for frequent checks at her home. A recent article in the Raleigh News & Observer documented the threats against her and Mr. Asion.
Full article available here.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund