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ES: Hate Crimes Against Latinos And Latino Street Vendors In The United States

Team: Katelyn Ferguson, Moon Jung Kim, Martyna Dobrowolska, Crime

Week of: April 12, 2021



An elotero selling corn on the streets with his cart, many Latino street vendors have been victims of violent attacks.[1]


There has been an increase in attacks against the Latino[2] community in the United States (US), especially against Latino street vendors. Many Latinos in the US rely on being street vendors—known as paleteros, eloteros, and tamaleros—to sell food as their main source of income to support their families, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.[3] However, there has been an observed increase in attacks against Latino street vendors since former US President Donald Trump’s election in 2016, a trend that has further escalated since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hate speech and extremist groups’ efforts to proliferate racist, radicalized ideologies have exacerbated the nature and number of these crimes, which many large news conglomerates have failed to cover and thus raise attention to. While individuals on social media platforms such as Instagram have been trying to raise awareness about these issues, the audience has been limited to who follows these profiles. This means that law enforcement and policymakers have oftentimes been unable to notice these crimes and intervene as necessary. It is highly likely that these attacks towards Latino street vendors will increase in frequency due to the growing polarization between individuals and communities of varying races in the US, which have been largely present throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet despite the increase in attacks against the Latino community in the US, there is hope that these attacks can be prevented with an overall increase in public awareness of such crimes and interactive human rights discussions centered around depolarization and tolerance towards all individuals and communities.


Discussion


Many recent violent attacks towards minorities in the US have often been perpetrated by individuals motivated by racial prejudices, most frequently against immigrants and American citizens who are ethnically different from the attackers. To fuel hatred among the far-right and other white supremacists specifically towards the Latino population, former US President Donald Trump's immigration policies focused on the principle of "America First'' to protect American workers and industries[4] by calling for increased border security—with a marked focus on the border wall with Mexico—and interior enforcement. Trump’s widely publicized decision to make large-scale policy changes involving the US-Mexico Border sped up the polarization between the far-right and Latinos within the US. This may have induced the far-right groups to further radicalize and turn to violent activity to express their support for Trump’s new policy. Additionally, feelings of racial resentment among the far-right and an overall trend of violence towards the Latino population may have also been exacerbated by Trump’s incendiary rhetoric revolving around false comments connecting Mexican immigrants to rising rates of crimes in the US.[5] Trump himself referred to Latinos as “murderers” and “rapists” throughout his term. He also made several overgeneralizations linking the entire Latino community to drug trafficking and “job-stealing”, which may have normalized sentiments of hatred towards Latinos among his followers.[6] Additionally, Trump’s polarizing language may have served to fuel the far-right and white supremacists into plotting attacks against members of the Latino population, which was understood by such groups to be a threat to national security and society as a whole.


Yet it is important to understand that the attacks against the Latino community and particularly Latino street vendors are not a new phenomenon; they have increased in frequency since the end of Trump’s term, and have escalated following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the end of March 2021, a Fresno street vendor, 45-year-old Lorenzo Pérez, was killed by a gunshot to the head by a person pretending to be a customer.[7] However, Perez is one of many Latino street vendors that have been killed in the past year. Miguel Media was punched and left unconscious in Los Angeles.[8] Adelaido Bernabe Urias was robbed and shot to death.[9] Jose Luis Rivera was shot to death in Fresno, California by a group of individuals who pulled up in a van.[10] Despite this concerning pattern, the names of these victims have largely failed to garner widespread attention, as the media has either downplayed or disregarded these crimes as not being severe or significant. It is therefore crucial that law enforcement recognizes these crimes as hate crimes towards the Latino population and releases public statements to news sources indicating they are so—the previously mentioned victims only represent a small fraction of murders perpetrated against the Latino community in the US, and defeating such crimes will require public attention that may only be accomplished through media coverage.


Many victims of anti-Latino hate crimes, including street vendors, do not report the attacks to law enforcement authorities. Underreporting these crimes is common and is ultimately detrimental in raising public awareness about these attacks,[11] thus slowing down the movement in the fight against anti-Latinx racism and violence. Some individuals do not report these attacks because they do not possess legalized documents to work in the US and fear punishment or deportation,[12] which has contributed to the lack of law enforcement intervention during the execution of these crimes. While cities that see higher amounts of attacks against Latino street vendors, such as Fresno, California, have begun to increase awareness of such crimes through reports by the Latino community to law enforcement and politicians,[13] this is not the case in all cities throughout the US. Latino street vendors may currently be in even more danger as the COVID-19 pandemic has created less foot traffic in the areas where they reside, which has made them an attractive target for robbery and/or assault without the risk of many witnesses.[14] With streets being empty, the act of violence becomes exclusive only to the aggressor(s) and the victim(s). Without witnesses, the victim may be more afraid to report the violence, fearing possible further attacks for revenge - thus ending up in a vicious circle characterized by physical assaults.


Much of the awareness present today for the increase in attacks against Latinos and Latino street vendors has been brought to the public by family members and friends who have been in contact with Instagram pages that are dedicated to posting about violence against the Latinx community. Similar to how the current movement protesting against anti-Asian violence emerged after years of neglect by news sources, members of the Latinx community are attempting to bring forth a similar movement via social media accounts in order to raise awareness on how to prevent hate towards the Latinx population in the US. Additionally, for human rights discussions, social movements, and policy change to begin changing the current situation on anti-Latino attacks, both the media and law enforcement must acknowledge that they are salient crimes and that the Latino community is being targeted by criminals who are possible extremists or white supremacists. CNN has only recently started to lay out the trend in attacks against Latino street vendors in states such as California, Colorado, and Texas.[15] It is paramount that other news sources also observe and report these trends to keep the general public informed about the crimes that will most likely continue to affect the Latino community without further law enforcement and legal intervention.


To assist in spreading awareness of hate crimes against Latinos and Latino street vendors, The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) will continue to monitor social media and local news sources in the US that bring attention to anti-Latino attacks, as well as larger news sources that are now beginning to identify these hate crimes as a developing trend. CTG also recognizes that it is important to remember the victims in these cases and to provide support to their families and their communities. The Crime Team specifically will continue to produce reports that analyze the motivations of anti-Latino attackers and the risks involved with the failure to regard anti-Latino hate crimes as salient to the well-being of numerous US citizens. The Crime Team will also continue to search for patterns in hate crimes perpetrated against other minorities to ensure that these crimes do not go unrecognized among the media, law enforcement, and the general public.

__________________________________________________________________ The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)

[1]Elotero” by rocha-09 licensed under Public Domain

[2] The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) also recognizes the term Latinx as well.

[3] A paletero was beaten unconscious and another one was killed. Street vendors are on edge, CNN, July 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/18/us/street-vendors-attacks-california-texas/index.html

[4] Donald Trump on Immigration, the balance, February 2021, https://www.thebalance.com/donald-trump-immigration-impact-on-economy-4151107

[5] Donald Trump’s false comments connecting Mexican immigrants and crime, Washington Post, July 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/07/08/donald-trumps-false-comments-connecting-mexican-immigrants-and-crime/

[6] Trump leaves mark on immigration policy, some of it lasting, AP News, December 2020, https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-donald-trump-politics-immigration-united-states-a5bfcbea280a468b431a02e82c15a150

[7] ‘Outrage Within Our Community': Street Vendor, a Father of Four, Shot and Killed While Working in Fresno, NBC Los Angeles, March 2021, https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/california-news/street-vendor-shot-killed-while-working-fresno/2556655/

[8] A paletero was beaten unconscious and another one was killed. Street vendors are on edge, CNN, July 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/18/us/street-vendors-attacks-california-texas/index.html

[9] Beloved neighborhood ice cream vendor dies after being shot during a robbery, police searching for suspects, KXAN, July 2020, https://www.kxan.com/news/crime/neighborhood-ice-cream-cart-man-shot-austin-police-search-for-3-robbery-suspects/

[10] Street vendor shot and killed in central Fresno identified, ABC 30, November 2020, https://abc30.com/fresno-street-vendor-shot-shootings-central-shooting/8127190/

[11] Crimes against Fresno street vendors go ‘under-reported.’ Has COVID-19 pandemic made it worse?, Fresno Bee, April 2021, https://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/article250339306.html

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] A paletero was beaten unconscious and another one was killed. Street vendors are on edge, CNN, July 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/18/us/street-vendors-attacks-california-texas/index.html

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