According to an article on washingtonpost.com: “U.S. civil rights leaders said yesterday that an increase in hate crimes committed in recent years against Hispanics and people perceived to be immigrants ‘correlates closely’ to the nation’s increasingly contentious debate over immigration.”
Those who oppose immigration get their traction by appealing to emotion. Hate is a very strong emotion. From time to time, mentally unstable individuals will commit crimes motivated by hatred and in their minds may even justify such acts by dehumanizing the victims. Anti-immigration organizations and some radio and cable television commentators use labels such as “criminal aliens” and the all-to-familiar term “illegals” to describe the undocumented. Some unbalanced anti-immigrants may equate all Hispanics (regardless of their immigration status) with “illegals” leading to an increase in violent crimes against this group.
Strong hate crime legislation would be a step in the right direction. Enforcement, prosecution and sentencing under such laws would probably have the greatest deterrence effect.