So says Roberto Cintli Rodriguez, a media scholar in the Mexican American Studies (MAS) department at the University of Arizona:
Given the Justice Department definition of a hate crime, one can argue that, in a strict sense, letters do not rise to the level of hate crimes because they don't specify a time or place. But the letters sections of Arizona's mainstream newspapers often contain threats of violence against Mexicans/immigrants, undeniably contributing to a climate that normalizes hate and fear.
The letters or comments sections appear to have become sanctuaries to virulent hate and, especially since the advent of the internet, a comfortable home to discourses of extremist hate and calls to violence, primarily of the extreme right-wing variety. Here, hate germinates, and has become normalized as a result of a daily drumbeat of dehumanization.
On one level, I certainly understand where the author is coming from on this. While the public needs and deserves a frank and open exchange on immigration -- especially in a moment of great turmoil -- there's simply no excuse for comments that seek to dehumanize an entire class of human beings. And too much of our so-called conversation about undocumented immigration does exactly that.