Anti-illegal immigrant conservative GOP firebrand Tom Tancredo loathes hate-crimes laws, which he thinks are biased in favor of minorities and redundant. But Tancredo’s recent engagement with hate crimes is complicated. Most recently, he is showing his distaste for the laws by asking for more not less prosecutions under the statutes, in effect joining federal authorities who announced Thursday that they are ratcheting up efforts to enforce civil rights laws after years of decline during the Bush administration.
In June, as Tancredo railed against confirming Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, calling her a racist, the Washington Independent broke news that Marcus Epstein, a top Tancredo staffer at his Team America PAC, had plead guilty in 2007 to a hate crime for karate-chopping a black woman on the street in Washington DC and calling her a “nigger.” The Team America PAC people played it down. Epstein was unstable. He was going through a rough patch and is better now, they said.
More recently, in November, Tancredo asked Denver D. A. Mitch Morrissey to charge 33 black men with hate crimes for a series of assaults in the city.
“I personally do not believe in ‘hate crime’ laws,” Tancredo said in a release explaining the move. “But if that law is used against some racial and ethnic groups, it should be applied equally to all groups. According to police Chief Whitman, the assaults in this case were all racially motivated against white and Hispanics, so that clearly falls within the definition of a ‘hate crime.'”
In upping hate crimes prosecutions, The Tank has his finger on the pulse, even if in a kind of reactive backward way. The news as reported by the New York Times today.
Thomas E. Perez, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said the department brought more federal hate crime cases this year than in any other year since 2001.
During the budget year that ended in September, 25 hate crime cases were filed, Mr. Perez said. By comparison, that number fell to a low of 12 in 2006, before rising to 23 in 2008. In 2001, 31 such cases were filed.
Mr. Perez said he was “shocked to see the downtick in prosecutions of hate crimes” during the George W. Bush administration, adding, “The Civil Rights Division is again open for business.”
This month, the Government Accountability Office released a report auditing the activities of the Civil Rights Division from 2001 to 2007. It concluded that there had been a drop in the enforcement of several major antidiscrimination and voting rights laws under the Bush administration compared with the Clinton administration.
And thanks to legislation passed this year, attacks on people for their sexual orientation joins the list of federal hate crimes categories. Tancredo will no doubt soon be hunting for cases where gay folks attack straight folks for being straight. Should he find one and succeed in bringing a hate crimes charge that puts more would-be gay attackers of straight people on notice, we salute him.