View Mobile Site


Report says many Latinos in South are targets of abuse

Southern Poverty Law Center study surveyed about 500 in Georgia, 4 other states

POSTED: April 22, 2009 12:02 a.m.

There’s a problem in the Latino community that outsiders may not be aware of.

According to a report recently published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Latinos, especially immigrants, are “encountering widespread hostility, discrimination and exploitation.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a Montgomery, Ala.,-based nonprofit that works to ensure equality.

The report, ”Under Siege: Life for Low-Income Latinos in the South,”  was written by Mary Bauer, the center’s Immigrant Justice Project director.

“(The report) documents a society where anyone of Latino descent is a potential target for harassment and discrimination,” Bauer said.

“Latinos are routinely victims of abuse by employers, by police who engage in racial profiling and by people on the street. This report demonstrates the human toll of failed government policies that relegate millions of people to an underground economy where they are essentially beyond the protection of the law.”

For the report, Southern Poverty Law Center staff surveyed about 500 Latinos in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and Louisiana. The survey addressed various issues, including language barriers in schools and the court system, sexual abuse of

Latina women and the fear that keeps many Latinos victims from reporting crimes.

“We chose the (survey communities) based on our office history with that community,” Bauer said. “Because the targeted population is difficult to identify and contact, we used the snowball sampling method, in which study subjects refer researchers to additional subjects.”

Of those individuals surveyed, “Georgia was the location where Latinos expressed the least confidence in the police. Only 27 percent of people interviewed reported that they had trust in the police.”

The report also found that 88 percent of Georgia respondents believed that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials targeted and treated Latinos differently, including immigrants of other backgrounds.

The communities were located mainly in Central and South Georgia, including Augusta, Vidalia, Statesboro, Macon and Swainsboro.

During the course of interviewing subjects for the report, Bauer says several major themes emerged from location to location.

From the overall survey group, 41 percent of responders reported that they had personally experienced wage theft, meaning they had not been paid for work they completed.

Although only 44 percent of survey participants were women, the report found that 77 percent of them reported that sexual harassment was a major problem on the job.

In the report, Bauer quotes one Latina who said many employers use a woman’s immigration status to sexually harass them.
“There are some bosses, supervisors or whomever that want to take advantage of their position so that (female employees) will have sex with them,” Gabriella reported (participants were identified only by first names).

“If not, they tell them they are going to fire them. They want to intimidate with the simple fact of saying, ‘You are an illegal and I can call immigration.’ And they use that fact so that they can harass.”

Because many Latino immigrants fear being deported, many crimes against them are left unreported, Bauer said.

“The numbers and stories repeated by survey participants indicate that the stories are true. If the subject pool was larger the numbers would probably be different, but the story would be the same,” Bauer said.

“I have been an advocate for immigrants for 20 years, but the last few years have been the worst I’ve seen.”


Commenting not available.
Commenting is not available.




Powered by
Morris Technology
Please wait ...