The nation’s top civil rights prosecutor last week blatantly misrepresented FBI crime statistics by claiming that hate crimes against Latinos are on the rise. Mr. Thomas Perez, who took over the Justice Department’s civil rights unit for the Obama Administration, said last Wednesday, “The data and my own experience is that hate crimes are on the rise: Hate crimes against every group are on the rise.” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, February 25, 2010). According to the Seattle Intelligencer, Perez then expressed particular concern that hate crimes directed at Latinos are on the rise and that Hispanic leaders and organizations are receiving threats, in his opinion, “because they had the audacity to stand up for immigration reform.” (Id.).
The remarks Perez made are controversial because the most recent FBI hate crime data for 2008 directly contradict them and Mr. Perez provided no other source to back up his claims. The 2008 FBI hate crime data, released in November 2009, show that in all four categories regarding hate crimes against Hispanics, there was a significant drop from the previous year. (FBI 2008 Hate Crimes Report). Specifically:
* Anti-Hispanic incidents fell 6%
* Anti-Hispanic offenses fell 5%
* Victims of anti-Hispanic incidents fell 4.6%; and
* Known offenders against Hispanics fell 6.2%
In making his statement, Mr. Perez disregarded these statistics and instead cited an incident of a man sending threatening emails to leaders of the National Council of La Raza as anecdotal evidence. (Id.).
Mr. Perez has long pledged to make prosecuting hate crimes a top priority, noting last fall that he “spent the better part of a decade prosecuting hate-crime cases.” (The Washington Post, December 22, 2009). Indeed, Perez served as a deputy assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice from 1988 to 1999. He previously served as Special Counsel to the late Senator Ted Kennedy and advised him on matters related to civil rights, criminal justice, and constitutional issues. (White House Press Release, March 13, 2009). During his time at the Department of Justice, Mr. Perez began volunteering for CASA de Maryland, a taxpayer funded organization affiliated with the National Council of La Raza that advocates amnesty and provides assistance to illegal and legal aliens throughout Maryland. After leaving Justice at the end of the Clinton administration he became president of CASA de Maryland’s Board of Directors in 2002. He was Maryland’s labor secretary when President Obama appointed him to the civil rights post.
Mr. Perez’s experience as a federal prosecutor makes his statement regarding hate crime data particularly troubling. Most would assume that an experienced prosecutor would know that the latest available data does not support the charge that hate crimes against Latinos are on the rise. This has led some to question not only the veracity of Mr. Perez’s statements, but the political motivation behind them.