Once again, New York's Suffolk County is in the headlines for another act of violence against Latinos and immigrants. Over the last few years Suffolk has not only become a center for growing anti-Latino violence, but, along with Hazleton PA, Prince William County VA, and Farmers Branch TX, it has become a principal force in the growing movement for local governments to enact their own immigration law.
Under the leadership of its County Executive and Legislature, the county has enacted some of the toughest anti-immigrant laws in the nation, making its chief executive, Steve Levy, a national spokesman for the restrictionist cause. …. and his county a hotbed of anti-immigrant hate.
They told police they wanted to beat up someone who looked Hispanic.
That was the motive, police said, that a mob of seven young men had in mind when they attacked a Patchogue man, who ended up being stabbed to death minutes before midnight Saturday, Suffolk police said.
"These individuals told detectives that they were looking to beat someone of Latino heritage," said Det. Lt Jack Fitzpatrick, commander of the homicide squad, adding that the victim, Marcello Lucero, 37, is of Ecuadorian descent.
Fitzpatrick said the seven suspects drove around Patchogue searching for victims and found Lucero and another Ecuadorian man.
Cops: Fatal stabbing of Patchogue man a hate crime - Newsday
Starting with the horrific beatings of two Latino immigrants at the hands of white supremacists in Farmingville in 2000, the list of hate crimes committed in Suffolk County is long and still growing to this day.
Sept 2000: (Two white supremacists) drove to Farmingville (LI) and, posing as contractors, offered work to Israel Perez, 20, and Magdaleno Estrada Escamilla, 29.
Instead, they took Perez and Estrada to the basement of an abandoned building in Shirley and attacked them. Slavin clubbed Estrada in the head with a posthole digger while Wagner slashed Perez with a knife. Perez nearly bled to death.
July 2003: A Mexican family's house in Farmingville was firebombed.
April 2005: Mark E. Dombrowski, 49, was charged with third-degree assault as a hate crime, a felony carrying a maximum four-year prison term. He is accused of shouting ethnic slurs as he beat Luis Ochoa, 53, the president of Solitaridad Latino Americana, in an apparent road-rage incident on April 18 in Montauk.
The police said that Mr. Dombrowski tried to run Mr. Ochoa's car off the road and then, after Mr. Ochoa parked in a driveway, knocked him to the ground, punching and kicking him. The police said witnesses, who provided the suspect's license plate number, reported that the man shouted ethnic slurs during the attack and that it took several people to pull him off Mr. Ochoa.
July 2005: A 61-year-old Ecuadorean immigrant was badly beaten in Patchogue by three white men as he pushes a shopping cart through the streets collecting cans. Before the attack, the man was asked if he had a green card. "Then they started pummeling him," Suffolk County Hate Crimes Det. Robert Reecks tells reporters. The man, whose name is not made public, suffers a broken eye socket and facial bruises.
April 2006: Three Latino teenagers are lured into a shed in East Hampton, N.Y. by a neo-Nazi skinhead (also a teenager) and then threatened and terrorized with a chainsaw and a machete. The victims are held for 90 minutes while the skinhead and his friends yell racial slurs, including "White power!" and "Heil Hitler!"
May 2006: In Southampton Village, Jonathan Cedillo is having lunch near a 7-Eleven when cab driver Robert Rossetti slaps his sandwich from his hand and then begins calling him derogatory racial names. Rosetti then begins ramming into Cedillo, who has American Indian and Mexican ancestry, with his taxi. Cedillo's right knee is injured. "He was cursing at me, telling me I'm an immigrant and to get out of this country," Cedillo tells reporters.
June 2006: Four Long Island teenagers claiming to be federal agents beat and robbed two Mexican immigrants fishing off a jetty Monday night after demanding to see their green cards, the authorities said yesterday. The assault, which the police said took place on a beach in Rocky Point, was the latest in a series of attacks on Latino immigrants in Suffolk County.
Sept 2006: Carlos Rivera, a construction worker from Honduras, is stabbed multiple times outside a bar in Hampton Bays by Thomas Nicotra and Kenneth Porter, who yell racial epithets during the attack. Nicotra and Porter, who witnesses say also yelled racial slurs at other patrons a night earlier, are both charged with felony robbery and assault with hate crime enhancements. Porter is sentenced to one year in Suffolk County Jail for first-degree assault after testifying against Nicotra. Nicotra is sentenced to nine years in state prison after finally pleading guilty to first-degree assault and robbery.
Since taking office, Democrat Levy has pushed legislation to deny county contracts to employers who can't verify their workers immigration status, cracked down on landlords who rent to immigrants raiding rooming houses without warning leaving immigrant tenants out on the streets, and attempted to deputize county law enforcement as immigration agents.
When he initiated a police crackdown on unlicensed drivers that relied upon racial profiling, Democrats in the state legislature claimed that Levy's actions “instigate divisiveness, hatred and intolerant behavior toward immigrants.” Then when he opposed the establishment of hiring halls for undocumented workers, the State Legislature’s black and Hispanic caucus blocked a routine measure to reauthorize a 1 percent county sales tax.
We can now once again see what the intolerance instigated by Levy and his allies leads too:
Prosecutors described a planned attack in which the group drove around in an attempt to go "Beaner jumping," as the suspects called it under police questioning. They were seeking out a Hispanic victim …
"Their motivation was to find Latinos and to assault them," Det. Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick said of the teens charged in connection with the crime. "That's what they went out to do that night and that's exactly what they did."
After spotting Lucero and another man near the Patchogue train station, "like a lynch mob, [Conroy] and his friends got out of their car and surrounded Mr. Lucero and his friend," (Assistant District Attorney Nancy) Clifford said.
The suspects hurled racial epithets before launching the attack, Fitzpatrick said.
Officials said Shea punched Lucero in the face as Lucero swung his belt at his attackers, in a vain attempt to protect himself.
"I punched him. I got him good. I saw blood coming down," said Clifford, quoting a statement she said Shea later gave police.
Conroy then "walks up towards him and stabbed him once in the chest," she said.
Prosecutor: Teens targeted Hispanics - Newsday
While Levy was quick to repudiate the actions of the teens, stating that, "This heinous crime that led to the death of an individual because of his race will not be tolerated in Suffolk County," he has consistently adopted harsh nativist rhetoric that only fans the flames of hate.
Mr. Levy professes disdain for nativists and bigots, but he has at times adopted their language and echoed their cries about a nation under siege. In a forum at the Lindenhurst Library a year ago, he railed about women crossing the border to give birth here “free of charge.” He said they were having “anchor babies,” a term nativist groups use to drum up fears of invading Mexicans using their citizen children to send relatives streaming over the border. The concept is spurious — immigration laws don’t work that way — but Mr. Levy used it, and then went off the rails, his voice rising, as he claimed that Southampton Hospital was closing its maternity ward because of a glut of uninsured “anchor babies.”
That wasn’t true — indignant hospital officials told us they knew nothing about “anchor babies” and were actually expanding maternity services — and Mr. Levy recanted.
Outbursts like that have made him a nationally known spokesman for the fed-up, mostly white, middle-class citizens who see a seemingly pell-mell influx of Spanish-speaking people and fear for their way of life. These are the people whose anger fuels the nightly tirades of Lou Dobbs, on whose CNN program Mr. Levy has been an honored guest.
The Riddle of Steve Levy –NYT
Hate doesn't happen in a vacuum, it needs to be nurtured and fed. While the acts of violence that seem so prevalent in Suffolk cannot be laid directly on the doorstep of Levy and the rest of his natists friends, the rhetoric of intolerance they use only emboldens the truly hateful and allows them to justify their worldview. Just as Sarah Palin's rhetoric aimed at Obama as "the other", "un-American", or "not one of us" validated the worst elements of bigotry and racism in her right-wing followers, Levy's battle against the "alien invasion" has mainstreamed the extreme, and set the stage for the violence we now see.
This has left 176,000 foreign-born residents in Suffolk County, 50,000 of whom officials estimate are undocumented, living in fear.
In the wake of the fatal stabbing, Suffolk police said they were undertaking a "comprehensive investigation" to determine whether the seven teenagers charged with a hate crime in Lucero's death were linked to similar incidents.
Urging victims and witnesses of this or other such crimes to come forward, Police Commissioner Richard Dormer promised police would not ask about the immigration status of anyone who contacted police.
"Do we worry that maybe they're not reporting? Yes," Dormer said of bias crime victims. "That's why it's so important that we get the message out...when we pledge that we do not check your status, we mean that."
Prosecutor: Teens targeted Hispanics – Newsday
When one lives in fear that the police will throw them out of their house without warning or arrest them on an immigration violation at a traffic stop, its doubtful that many would put too much faith in the Commissioners pledge to not ask about immigration status.
One can only wonder how many other attacks and incidents have gone unreported due to the past practices of the Suffolk government.
Immigrant rights advocate Rev. Allan Ramirez speaking on the death of Marcello Lucero reflected the anger many in the immigrant community feel towards Levy.
"Steve Levy, the county executive along with these seven young teens, has blood in his hands," said Rev. Ramirez. "He created the atmosphere in which hatred and racism is predominant in this county."
How long will it take, and how many more must die before those who use hate and divisiveness as political tools are finally held accountable for their words and are no longer allowed to distance themselves from the horrific actions those words inspire.