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Rise in reports of hate crimes against Latinos pushes overall number to 11-year high

Of 51 hate-motivated murders reported in 2019, 22 — almost half — were from last year's anti-Hispanic mass shooting in El Paso, Texas.
Image: Mourners take part in a vigil at El Paso High School after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso
Mourners take part in a vigil in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 3, 2019, after a mass shooting at a Walmart.Jorge Salgado / Reuters file

Reports of hate crimes against Latinos, including last year's shooting massacre in El Paso, Texas, increased in 2019, while the overall number of reports of hate-motivated killings hit its highest level since data began being collected in the early 1990s, an FBI report released Monday indicated.

Of the 51 hate-motivated killings reported last year, 22 of the victims — almost half — died in the El Paso massacre on Aug. 3, 2019. Most of the victims were Latinos. Authorities have said the gunman was targeting Hispanics when he drove hundreds of miles to El Paso and shot multiple people at a Walmart.

The massacre was investigated as domestic terrorism, and a 23rd person died from his injuries this year.

Authorities said that before the attack, the gunman had posted a hate-filled racist statement decrying the "invasion" of Mexican immigrants in the United States.

Reported anti-Hispanic hate crimes, which include robberies, assaults and other crimes, rose to 527 last year, up from 485 in 2018, an 8.7 percent increase, according to the FBI.

The reported number of hate crimes against Black people dropped slightly, from 1,943 to 1,930, while the reported number of religion-based hate crimes, most of them targeting Jews and Jewish institutions, increased by 7 percent. Those on sexual orientation were relatively stable.

In total, 55.8 percent of the reported hate crime incidents, according to the FBI, were motivated by bias against race, ethnicity or ancestry.

There were 7,314 reports of hate crimes last year, up from 7,120 the year before — and approaching the 7,783 of 2008. The FBI's annual report defines hate crimes as those motivated by bias based on a person's race, religion or sexual orientation, among other categories.

Improved reporting of hate crimes may account for some increase in numbers, but law enforcement officials and advocacy groups have little doubt that more hate crimes are being committed.

The data are based on voluntary reporting by police agencies across the country. Last year, only 2,172 law enforcement agencies out of about 15,000 participating agencies across the country reported hate crime data to the FBI, the bureau said.

After the attack in El Paso, residents said the nation had to address the racism behind the largest killing of Latinos in modern history.

"It's clear it was not just a random attack," said Marisa Limón Garza, deputy director of the Hope Border Institute, shortly after the killings in August 2019. "It's clear that this cannot be called someone with a mental illness. This illness is racism and xenophobia."

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