This coming Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of the death of Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero, who was killed by a group of teens in Patchogue, N.Y., on Nov. 8, 2008.
Lucero's attackers told police that they would routinely go "beaner jumping" -- which meant they would hunt down and assault Latinos. One of the defendants said, "I don't go out doing this very often, maybe once a week."
Just as in Patchogue, there are undeniable tensions around immigration across the country, and in the worst instances, those tensions turn violent or deadly.
But instead of inflammatory rhetoric, we need real solutions for our broken immigration system. Comprehensive immigration reform isn't the only answer to these harmful attacks, but it's an important step towards bringing immigrants out of the shadows and under the umbrella of the law.
Sign the petition below in support of immigration reform, and do your part to prevent another tragedy like that of Marcelo Lucero.
Our nation has been made stronger and richer by immigrants, and we know that immigration can help America to grow, both culturally and economically. But for that growth to happen, we need the right policies. Help us "Remember Marcelo" by backing comprehensive immigration reform.
We can't afford to wait any longer.
On Long Island, we can clearly see the relationship between hate crimes and the absence of reasonable immigration policy. A September report by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that a decade’s worth of anti-immigrant demagoguery in Suffolk County has helped nativist views take root, and created an environment where attacks against immigrants are commonplace.
The most prominent tragedy on Long Island was the November 2008 hate killing of Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero, who was allegedly beaten and stabbed by a group of teens in Patchogue, N.Y. The attackers told police that they would routinely go "beaner jumping" -- which meant they would hunt down and assault Latinos.
While many people in the community were shocked by the Lucero murder, Latino immigrants throughout Suffolk County had long considered it unsafe to walk alone after dark. Getting pelted with bottles, shot with BB guns, and run off the road by cars was not unusual for Suffolk’s immigrant population, according to the report by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The report also noted that the problems in Suffolk County aren’t unique:
“The situation in Suffolk County, in fact, is a microcosm of a problem facing the entire United States, where FBI statistics suggest a 40% rise in anti-Latino hate crimes between 2003 and 2007, the latest numbers available. The number of hate groups in America has been rising, too, climbing more than 50% since 2000, mainly by exploiting the issue of undocumented non-white immigration.”
It isn’t the only answer, but comprehensive immigration reform will help combat hate crimes by providing a path to earned citizenship for the 12 million or more undocumented people living and working in the U.S., each of whom will be able to come out of the shadows and under the umbrella of the law.
Beyond hate crimes, overall community policing is also more difficult because of our country’s outdated and disjointed immigration policies. Christopher W. Ortiz, PhD, a sergeant in the Glen Cove, N.Y., police department and a criminal justice lecturer, explained how why our current enforcement-only immigration policies are counter-productive in an August blog post on Long Island Wins. According to Ortiz:
“If criminalized, new immigrant communities will logically become distrustful of law enforcement and will no longer call the police to report crimes. This can have a disastrous effect on victimization in those communities and can lead to crime sprees as predators target these communities. The end result of this enforcement strategy is decreased security and public safety for all communities.”
Americans are ready for reform. Polls show that Americans strongly believe -- by a 2-1 margin -- that comprehensive reform is a realistic solution .
The time is right to pass immigration reform, but it won’t happen without your support. With this letter, I urge you to do your part to combat hate crime and strengthen our economy, families, and communities by supporting comprehensive immigration reform.