SPLC Report: Immigration Debate Fueling Hate Groups - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

SPLC Report: Immigration Debate Fueling Hate Groups

The SPLC report was released on Monday. The SPLC report was released on Monday.

From its Montgomery headquarters, the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project tracks hate groups nationwide. In recent years, researchers say they have discovered something disturbing.

"The tone of the immigration debate in this country has really become vile and that is helping these (hate) groups grow," said the project's director, Mark Potok.

Potok publishes the quarterly Intelligence Report magazine. The most recent issue entitled "The Year in Hate" exposes how hate groups -- even some legitimate political groups -- are spreading racist propaganda as part of their anti-immigration messages.

"It's very common to hear that illegal immigrants fill one third of the prison cells in this country. It's even been repeated by politicians, yet it is entirely false," Potok explained.

According to the SPLC's research, the number of hate groups in the U.S. has risen dramatically since the immigration debate began. The organization claims there are now 888 hate groups nationwide. There were 604 groups eight years ago.

The FBI is also reporting a rise in violence towards immigrants. Federal statistics show hate crimes against latinos rose by 35% between 2003 and 2006.

Potok says there's no question that America's immigration system needs reform, but not at the expense of the immigrants themselves.

"We should debate the issue as a democratic nation, but what we should not be doing is saying, 'what's wrong with those people with brown skin?'"

You can read an on-line version of the Intelligence Report or request a copy from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Reporter: Mark Bullock

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