Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Immigration, hate, and the Arizona shooting

Photo by Patrick Dockens/Flickr (Creative Commons)

How much of a role did the immigration debate and racial-ethnic hatred play in yesterday's devastating shooting in Tucson that killed six and injured 13, among them U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords? The motive of suspected shooter Jared Lee Loughner, described as mentally unstable, is still unclear and may always be. But there are connections to both that continue to develop.

A Department of Homeland Security memo leaked to Fox News pointed to a possible link between Loughner and the radical group American Renaissance, which advocates white supremacy. From the memo published by Fox:

...strong suspicion is being directed at AmRen / American Renaissance. Suspect is possibly linked to this group. (through videos posted on his myspace and YouTube account.). The group’s ideology is anti government, anti immigration, anti ZOG (Zionist Occupational Government), anti Semitic.

Gabrielle Gifford is the first Jewish female elected to such a high position in the US government. She was also opposite this group’s ideology when it came to immigration debate.

The group has denied any involvement with the shooting suspect.

Giffords, who was shot point blank in the head but survived, was a foe of Arizona's stringent SB 1070 immigration law. Immigration issues were a flashpoint during the Democratic incumbent's campaign against Republican challenger Jesse Kelly, a Tea Party candidate who "held fundraisers where he urged supporters to help remove Giffords from office by joining him to shoot a fully loaded M-16 rifle," per the Associated Press.

And while he is not thought to have been a target, among the dead is U.S. District Judge John Roll, who two years ago received death threats after he allowed a lawsuit filed by undocumented immigrants against vigilante rancher Roger Barnett to move forward. The threats were taken so seriously that Roll and his wife were assigned a security detail for a month. From the Arizona Republic:

When Roll ruled the case could go forward, U.S. Marshal David Gonzales said in 2009 that talk-radio shows cranked up the controversy and spurred audiences into making threats.

In one afternoon, Roll logged more than 200 phone calls. Callers threatened the judge and his family. They posted personal information about Roll online.

"They said, 'We should kill him. He should be dead,'" Gonzales said.

Also among those who died was a 9-year-old girl born on September 11, 2001. The shooting occurred at a community event held by Giffords' office outside a Tucson grocery store. Charges against Loughner are expected to be filed today.

UPDATE: Loughner was charged with two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder in U.S. District Court this afternoon. According to the complaint, a letter from Rep. Giffords was found in a safe at his home, thanking him for attending a 2007 public event similar to yesterday's.