A project of the Center for Community Change

Latinos in Suffolk County live in fear

Suffolk County rallies around the murder of Marcelo Lucero, calling for an end to the hate and violence.

Suffolk County rallies around the murder of Marcelo Lucero, calling for an end to the hate and violence.

If you’ve read this blog consistently, you will remember the murder of Marcelo Lucero in Suffolk County, NY earlier this year. Lucero was brutally murdered by a group of young boys who were out for a night of “beaner-jumping” – to give you an idea of the culture of hate that rules in this area.

Today, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a report that, as la Mamita Mala at VivirLatino says, tell us what residents of Suffolk County, NY already know (and live on a daily basis). The report shows that Latinos in Suffolk County, NY live in a climate of fear – fear for their safety and their lives. To read the full report, click here.

Steve Levy, the Suffolk County executive, is infamous for the many anti-immigrant initiatives and county policies he’s signed into law. Recently, he has been labeled the “enabler-in-chief of the anti-immigrant violence” in Suffolk. After the murder of Marcelo Lucero, the community rallied to show up to prayer vigils and lift up the story to educate the American public on the hate still preying on the vulnerable

However… Levy continued with his anti-immigrant rhetoric, stating that the incident was receiving too much coverage and that it should only be a “one-day” story.

Thankfully, two days later, Levy issued a mea culpa apologizing for his statements. However, this is too little, too late for a community that is being torn apart by hate.

From the SPLC press release:

“The murder of Marcelo Lucero was by no means an isolated hate crime but rather part of a wider pat­tern of violent attacks against Latinos in Suffolk County,” said Mark Potok, director of the SPLC Intel­ligence Project, which produced the report. “For 10 years, political leaders and anti-immigration activists in Suffolk County have demonized Latino immigrants, and the police have appeared indifferent to their plight. We should not be surprised that Latinos are regularly targeted for violence and harassment.”

The report includes numerous first-hand accounts of immigrants being punched and kicked by random attackers, beaten with baseball bats or robbed at knifepoint. They say they are regularly taunted, spit upon and pelted with apples, full soda cans, beer bottles and other projectiles.

The anti-immigrant rhetoric in Suffolk County dates back at a least a decade to the founding of Sachem Quality of Life (SQL), a militant anti-immigrant group that spread bogus data claiming Latino immigrants were responsible for sexual assaults, burglaries and other serious crimes. The group stoked anti-immi­grant sentiment, repeatedly referring to Latino immigrants as “terrorists” and labeling anyone advocating immigrant rights as traitors.

I definitely appreciate the work that SPLC has done on this issue, and for lifting up this story to the national level, but I wonder if there is something more than a teachable moment that can be latched onto here. What does it take to eradicate hate like this?

In  previous post, I quoted the NY Times article titled “A Death in Patchogue”, and I feel the need to quote it again.

Deadly violence represents the worst fear that immigrants deal with every day, but it is not the only one. It must be every leader’s task to move beyond easy outrage and take on the difficult job of understanding and defending a community so vulnerable to sudden outbreaks of hostility and terror.

Not only every leader should take on this task, but every American. Period.

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