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Immigrants and Hate Crime in the United States


The killing of an Indian Engineer in Kansas City has renewed the debate on hate crime in the USA. Contrary to popular perception, hate crime incidence is not higher in places with high immigrant population.


In the wake of a suspected hate crime against two Indians in the US state of Kansas; media in India has sensationalized the incident in a way that it could trigger fear and uncertainty for many immigrants living in the United States and their families in India. This report is a fact check about states in the United States that have been top immigrant destinations and their corresponding hate crime rates. The incidence of hate crime in this story is taken as number of hate crime incidents per 100000-immigrant population in a particular state. The census data of 2013 is considered for the immigrant population.

Top Immigrant Destinations

According to PEW Research Center analysis of Census Bureau Data, the immigrant population in the United States has increased significantly between 1990 and 2014. In 1990, United States was home to 19.8 million immigrants compared to 42.2 million in 2014. The reports indicate that though the numbers have increased over the years, the states that immigrants are choosing to settle has largely remained the same.

The states with top immigrant population in terms of percentage include California, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Nevada, Hawaii, Texas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Illinois and DC metropolitan area.

Top Immigrant Destinations in the US

Hate Crime in Top Immigrant Destinations

An analysis of FBI Hate Crime Data by Jurisdiction from 2010-2015 clearly shows that the states of Massachusetts and DC metropolitan area are the only two areas with high immigrant population, which also has reported high incidence of hate crime (hate crime incidents per 100000 immigrant population). These are the only two states that have consistently figured in the top 15 states with high incidence of hate crime. The two states also have very different demographics.

Top immigrant destinations(The state of Hawaii did not report hate crime data to the FBI)

DC’s African American population is the highest in the country at 49% as of 2014. Considering that most hate offenders in the United States are white Americans with a racial bias, this might be a probable cause of high hate crime incidence in DC. DC’s white population is 43.6% and Asian population is 4%. Unlike DC, Massachusetts’s African-American population is only 8.1% and 83.2 % population constitutes white Americans. Asian population is 2% higher than DC.

States with High Incidence of Hate Crime

The southern states of the United States are often referred to as the ‘Bible Belt’ due to the population’s conservative policies as well as considerable population of Catholics. Out of the 15 states with the highest hate crime incidence per 100,000-immigrant population, five states – West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina and Alabama are from this region.

Highest Incidence of Hate Crime in USA crime - top 15

United States - Regions

While all the five states figures have remained more or less steady, the southern state of Alabama had a sudden spike to hate crime in incidents between 2011-2012. This is the same time that an anti-immigration law (HB 56) was passed. This controversial law required all immigrants to carry their documentation at all times and allowed holding them in jail until they could prove that they were legal residents in the United States. Even though, the law largely effected Hispanic population, it created fear, victimization and anxiety among all immigrant populations.

The President Donald Trump has been a vocal supporter of such laws in the speeches, interviews and remarks on various occasions since his campaign started. Besides Alabama, five other US states – South Carolina, Arizona, Utah, Georgia and Indiana enacted similar laws. He was  in favor of controversial anti-immigrant laws such as Arizona’s SB 1070 law for a long time and suggested during his campaign that he would implement similar laws nationally. Even though it might not be as easy due to the power of individual states to pass these laws, his intentions and actions could certainly influence the creation of harsh anti-immigration laws. This could also create uncertainty and unrest in immigrant populations and their decision to live in the United States.

US Hate crime Analysis by Region

The other states with high hate crime incidence per 100,000-immigrant population spread across the mid-western region. It has six states – North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Michigan, Missouri and Kansas on the list. The states of North Dakota, South Dakota and Kansas are considered republican strongholds. The Republican Party’s views are conservative with regard to immigration policies.

The northern-eastern region of the United States has three states on the list – DC metropolitan area, Maine and Vermont and the western region has one state- Montana.

States with large Indian Immigrants and Hate Crime Incidence

According to US Census Bureau Statistics (2009-2013 ACS), states with the largest number of foreign born/ immigrants from India are concentrated in California (19%), New Jersey (11%), Texas (9%) along with sizeable presence in states of New York, DC Metropolitan area, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Georgia. All these states also have major metropolitan city divisions in the United States indicating large urban populations and high economic and market activities.

Out of the nine states with large Indian Immigrant population, District of Columbia (DC), New Jersey and California are slightly on the higher side in regard to incidence of hate crimes compared to the rest. But California also has twice as many as immigrants than the rest of the country and also 38.2 % of its population is Hispanic. California, DC and New Jersey are also part of critical metropolitan divisions and California has up to five metropolitan  divisions.

It is important to understand any hate crime in the context of the national picture and evidence over a period of time. The only sub category of the FBI data that includes foreign born or immigrants is under Asian and Hispanic populations. Hate crimes against Asian population has remained 2-2.5% of the overall hate crime in the United States and hate crime in states with high immigrant populations has been relatively low barring the states of District of Columbia (D.C) and Massachusetts.

Even though the atmosphere might be politically charged and hate crime incidents targeting immigrant, religious and other minority communities are being reported more, it is important not to panic. It is important to report these hate crimes to the US Department of Justice and civil rights organizations that work in this area.

Hate Crime Reporting and Prosecution

The 2015 Hate Crime Report By the Los Angeles Commission on Human Relations says “the National Crime Victim Survey published by the U.S. Justice Department in 2014 found that hate crimes occurred 22 to 40 times more than the number reported by police to the FBI. This is due to victims not reporting hate crimes to police, as well as a failure of law enforcement to classify hate crimes and report them to federal authorities.”

The report also indicates the common reasons victims do not report the incidence to law enforcement is due to fear of retaliation by perpetuator or related people, linguistic or cultural barriers, immigration status, lack of knowledge of the immigration system as well as previous negative experiences with law enforcement authorities. Besides the victims, the law enforcement authorities also consider reporting hate crime as a low priority due to lack of standard, uniform training and practices. Some authorities might play down hate crime in order to shield their states and counties from negative publicity.

Along with low hate crime reporting rate, another reason hate crime offenders in the United States seem to be complacent is due to the low prosecution rates of hate crimes. The Transactional Records Clearing House (TRAC), a data research and distribution organization in Syracuse University found a very small percentage of the hate crime allegations end in conviction or even an arrest. One of the reasons is because even though many offenders are counted as known by the FBI, it only means that they have some information on the probable race, gender or any other parameter but does not mean they know who that person really is. Hate crime researchers also believe that bias and motivation in a hate crime are the core evidence in favor of the victim but it is the hardest in prove in the courtroom. Highest number of hate crimes are not prosecuted due to insufficient evidence, lack of evidence to prove criminal intent or weak insufficient admissible evidence.

It is therefore very important for residents to understand their rights, criminal justice system and anonymous agencies that they can report any hate crime incidents irrespective of their nationality or immigration status. Building strong immigrant community resources for solidarity in all regions, educating people about possible hate crimes, suitable responses and consequential action within communities is the best form of defense to hate crimes.


About Author

Tejeswi Pratima Dodda is a communications professional. She is passionate about social justice, gender mainstreaming and conflict.

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