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The Ku Klux Klan has experienced a worrying resurgence in popularity in the United States due to the "hot-button issues including immigration, gay marriage and urban crime" the Anti-Defamation League has said.
The ADL, which monitors the activities of the KKK as well as other racist groups and relays their findings to law enforcement and policymakers, views the recent increase in Klan activity in the US as troublesome, since the Klan has been relatively under the radar in recent years.
"If any one single issue or trend can be credited with reenergizing the Klan, it is the debate over immigration in America," said ADL Civil Rights Director Deborah M. Lauter. "Klan groups have witnessed a surprising and troubling resurgence by exploiting fears of an immigration explosion, and the debate over immigration has in turn helped to fuel an increase in Klan activity, with new groups sprouting in parts of the country that have not seen much activity."
The KKK has exploited Americans's fear of Muslim and Arab immigrants, as well as the growing anti-immigrant feeling in the South stemming from the overwhelming influx of illegal Mexican workers, said ADL Israel office director Arieh O'Sullivan. New hate groups have emerged, and have manifested themselves by holding anti-immigration rallies and recruitment drives. These groups have also been active in distributing racist literature with a new emphasis on the immigration issue and Hispanics, and have effectively communicated with their supporters and publicized events through KKK- sponsored sites on the Internet, he said.
According to the ADL, the KKK believes that "America is drowning in a tide of non-white immigration, controlled and orchestrated by Jews, and is vigorously trying to bring this message to Americans concerned or fearful about immigration."
While certain Klan "strongholds" such as Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee have rapidly expanded in size, the emergence of new activity in Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania has created racial issues inside of communities that had until now been untroubled by such activity. The KKK has also been cooperating with neo-Nazi groups based in the National Socialist Movement.
"Although some Klansmen may still hold cross-burnings dressed in robes and hoods, today's young Klansmen are more likely to look virtually indistinguishable from racist skinheads or neo-Nazis," Lauter added. "Today's Klansmen may be as likely to gather at white power music concerts or socialize at so-called 'unity rallies' with other white supremacists as to participate in ritualistic cross burnings in the rural wilderness." The ADL has noted that Klan groups have become "Nazified" over recent years, with members choosing to engross themselves in the neo-Nazi subculture.
Between 2000 and 2005, hate groups mushroomed 33 percent and Klan chapters by 63%, according to Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate crimes. Precise data is difficult to pinpoint, but Potok's group counts as many as 150 Klan chapters with up to 8,000 members nationwide. More than 800 hate groups exist around the country, Southern Poverty research shows.
The FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program, which monitors hate crimes throughout the US, has substantiated the ADL's claim based on their findings of an increase of hate crimes since 2004. According to the FBI study released in October 2006, 54% of hate crime violence is racially-motivated, while 17% was motivated by religious bias and 13% was due to national origin.