A police officer slain in Salt Lake City last year made a list of crimes in 2007, which the Southern Poverty Law Center characterizes as "another year marked by staggering levels of racist hate in America."

Curtis Michael Allgier, a white supremacist, faces the death penalty if convicted of murder in the killing of a corrections officer on June 25, 2007.

The crime is listed in the SPLC Intelligence Report's "Year in Hate," along with "gun-toting white supremacists" in Jena, La., and nativist leaders' call for "sniper teams and mines" along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The civil rights organization found the number of hate groups operating in America rose to 888 last year, up from 602 in 2000.

The SPLC attributes much of the increase to the exploitation of the immigration debate by hate groups.

And the report suggests there's a link between the rise in anti-illegal immigrant groups and FBI statistics that show a 35 percent increase in hate crimes against Latinos from 2003 to 2006.

"I cannot prove that propaganda like 'immigrants are coming here to rape your daughter and send leprosy to your son' is a link to hate crimes," said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project. "Propaganda does lead, in many cases, to criminal violence."

The report lists 14 "anti-immigrant" hate groups along with some 300 other anti-illegal immigration groups. Roughly half of those, including the Utah Minuteman Project, are listed as "nativist extremist."

Eli Cawley, head of the Utah Minuteman Project, says he isn't upset with his group's listing, and instead sees it as a "badge of honor." It's because he sees SPLC as an "anti-American" group that has inaccurately portrayed the grass-roots movement against illegal immigration.

"I am an unabashed nationalist," Cawley said. "It aggravates me to no end to see people like us cast as bigots and nativists and racists. It's just not true."

On the national level, the Federation for American Immigration Reform released a statement calling into question its addition as a hate group — and the report's link to hate crimes.

"There is no level of hate crime that is acceptable — period," Dan Stein, FAIR's president, said in the statement. "However, the SPLC's calculated abuse of the term 'hate group' and manipulation of hate crime data for self-serving political interests is an affront to hate-crime victims and those who advocate on their behalf."

The report says FAIR's addition is because of its promotion of "conspiracy theories and other racist propaganda about immigrants" and "a history of ties to white supremacist groups and ideology."

Utah does have two other hate groups listed in the report: the Fundamentalist LDS Church and a chapter of American National Socialist Workers Party, a neo-Nazi group.

E-mail: dbulkeley@desnews.com