The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

New SPLC Report on Latino Immigrants in Suffolk County, N.Y.

By Heidi Beirich on September 2, 2009 - 9:04 am, Posted in Anti-Immigrant

Last Nov. 8, Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant living in Suffolk County on New York’s Long Island, was murdered in the town of Patchogue. Lucero was attacked by a gang of teenagers calling themselves the Caucasian Crew, who targeted Latino residents as part of a sport they called “beaner-hopping.” In the wake of the murder, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) sent a Spanish-speaking researcher to Suffolk County to interview Latino residents, both documented and undocumented, over a period of months. Today, the SPLC is releasing its report based on those interviews, Climate of Fear: Latino Immigrants in Suffolk County, N.Y.

The report documents that the Lucero murder, while the worst of the violence so far, was hardly an isolated incident. Latino immigrants in Suffolk County are regularly harassed, taunted, and pelted with objects hurled from cars. Many report being beaten with baseball bats and other objects. Adding to immigrants’ fears is the furious rhetoric of groups like the now-defunct Sachem Quality of Life, whose longtime spokesman regularly referred to immigrants as “terrorists.”

The report also reveals that among those fueling the anti-immigrant fire have been many of the very people who are charged with protecting the residents of Suffolk County — local politicians and law enforcement officials. One county legislator said that if he saw an influx of Latino day laborers in his town, “we’ll be out with baseball bats.” Another said that if Latino workers were to gather in a local neighborhood, “I would load my gun and start shooting, period.”

  • jay

    As an eastern Long Islander I am stunned that folks that dont even live here have so much to say. As the parent of foreign born children, I believe with all my heart that immigration and the blending of cultures is what has made this country as great as it is. But there is a huge difference between legal and illegal immigration and for some reason people remove the work “illegal” when professing the horrors of our treatment of immigrants.
    As a single parent, I have struggled working two jobs to support my kids and their education. Right now, 46% of my school district is illegal.Do you know what it is like to pay my rising school taxes for 46% of kids who parents pay in nothing? These are not legal immigrants who work side by side with me. These are illegal kids, some just crossed the border days before. How can I survive? And what about health care? In our local clinic, one of our military men and his wife were denied payment for their pre-natal care because they made $40.00 too much per month so they are paying out of pocket. In the same lobby sat 11 illegal women (two who had crossed the border the week before) whose prenatal care was PAID IN FULL by his taxes and mine!! In our school, my son was beat up by an illegal Hispanic boy, calling him racial slurs while he smashed his face! I have taught my immigrant, naturalized children to respect everyone, but these are just a few examples of why anger grows out of frustration.Should anyone pay the price of this situation with their life? Absolutely not! But remember that there are always two sides to every story. Unless something is done to deal with illegal immigration (yes..illegal) more frustration will turn to anger. Im literally going under financailly as my school expands to accomodate the increasing numbers of illegal kids. I cant pay my taxes. Am I not supposed to be frustrated. Lets all remember that immigration quotas helped keep our country balanced so that we could blend. When one group (any group) upsets that balance by coming into the country illegally, frustrations and tempers will rise

  • mareli

    Well for the people that said that they didnt want immigrants to come over well I bat you your ancestors probably came from some where else over here so dont blame us for everthing and all we want to do is give our families a better life!!!

  • BlackOps

    Thanks for the heads up on the Babel Fishing, I will check it out. As now it has come to roost that the Justice Department is here in Suffolk County to deal with SCPD. I am sure Levy will be paid a visit at some point as well.

  • beholder


    nice observation on the use of the term “spanish” to describe Latin American ethnicity.

    let’s also not forget the phrases the never-ever bigoted folks use as soon as someone cuts them off in traffic!

  • beholder

    black ops

    try babel fishing it into Spanish and sending it to all latino and civil rights groups listed by SPLC, and include a link to the English story here. that’s what I’d do.

    The translation won’t be great but the message will be received.

  • beholder


    Where did you get the 20 million number?

    I keep seeing that number floating around, but the official estimate from Homeland Security is 12 million.

    What gives with the additional illegal immigrant population the size of two Houstons for crying out loud? Where are they, hiding in the clouds?

    Why is it that I suspect John Tanton or one of his hate groups had something to do with that wild-eyed miscalculation?

  • BlackOps

    My only problem with your paper, “Climate of Fear” is that you didn’t publish it in Spanish. I am certain that the Latinos of Suffolk County and elsewhere would appreciate having access to such a document. I dont know if there is a mechanism for its distribution however if you think of one let me know.

  • Billy Kess

    Come here legally and maybe this wouldnt be a problem. Wow! What a concept! LEGALLY DOCUMENTED! GEE!!!!

  • ms. pitbull

    This makes me so angry. In St.Lawrence county, NY, we’ve had a large influx of Latinos coming in to work on the dairy farms. *So far* they has been no incidents. The Border Patrol are their usual harrassing selfs with them though. Is there any place I can point them to to ensure their civil rights are not being violated?

  • Snorlax

    That Sachem stuff is probably from their local Sachem school district.

    Another irony…many their schools are named with Native American words like Cayuga, Chippewa, Seneca…and Sachem is a Native American word too.

    Ironic that a white-supremacist group would take a Native American name, since they probably would beat up any Native Americans they found.

  • Snorlax

    Funny thing about this…in Suffolk County, those “Caucasians” are probably ethnic whites.

    50 or 100 years ago, THEIR daddies or granddaddies were the minority kids being beaten up by WASP kids.

    We really never do learn anything from history, so we are constantly condemned to repeat the same stupid mistakes over and over and over and over and over and over and…

  • DocDiggs

    Is this a place where NYC thugs move when they “outgrow” the city? Quite honestly I don’t know why Hispanics would want to live in such a place, but when one has no real choice of where to go, someplace is better than noplace. I do wonder what the “religion quotient” is there…do these people who practice such thuggish behavior gussy up and sing hymns and praise their maker on Sunday morning and then on Monday through Saturday go out to beat up Hispanics. i have to also wonder if the State Police can take over the supervision of “law enforcement” there. the truly pathetic thing is that this happens here in America, but then Americans aren’t always the wonderful people that many claim to be.

  • Debra E

    I live in Suffolk County and the lack of attention by government officials, especially County Executive Levy, was appalling. Suffolk Co. has been trying to eliminate gathering places for hispanic workers to meet and hope that they are picked up for day work. Coming from the midwest, Chicago and rural Wisconsin, I grew up with Mexicans. My high school’s only minority was Mexican. In Wisconsin there is a large Mexican community due to the agriculture business and the canning companies. Out here in New York, and especially in Suffolk, I have found a deep prejudice towards Mexicans, as if they are all thieves and drug runners. The guy that was beaten to death wasn’t even Mexican, he was from Equador. The largest population of hispanics on the Island are from Salvador. Without these immigrants, legal or illegal, the lawns would never get cut, the houses would never get cleaned, and the kids would never have nannies. Mexicans are some of the hardest workers I have ever known. Take a trip to Chicago and visit a Mexican neighborhood. It sure is a lot cleaner than Queens.

  • Carter

    Sweeping generalizations don’t help in dialog regarding social problems. The dynamic of bigotry changes as social & economic influences do. Issues of bigotry are dependent on where you live in our country.
    In my community, the majority of the population is Spanish speaking Mexican or Tribal communities (or both). Few people turn their head when Spanish is spoken. But many folks find it offensive when someone calls a Mexican individual “Spanish” – as if being European is so much “cleaner” than being Mexican. Mexican is not a dirty word….
    It’s actually amusing in a sense how much one will hear someone refers to a man or woman as “Spanish” when they are pretty darn far from Madrid.
    But frankly many Latinos have a way to go to be free of their own bigotry! No one is immune to foolish thinking just because they belong to a specific group. That in itself is a complex challenge!

  • R Harper

    By the way – the “local politicians” cited in this report should be named. Why are the identities of these incompetent public servants being protected?

  • R Harper

    Interesting report. I live and work in Suffolk County and it should be noted that there are big differences in the county and where this happens. Suffolk County is the largest revenue generating agricultural county in NYS – the western end is mostly suburban while the eastern end is largely rural and employs hundreds of undocumented Latino workers. In the agricultural sector, the relationships with the Latino population is very good – they have integrated into local communities and the locals realize without them, agriculture would not exist in their area. Like many other place, the locals don’t want the agricultural jobs anymore. The western end is the site of most of the trouble. The economic situation there is worse, the population is dense and jobs are in competition. It is a shame that this is going on. The level of ignorance in this day and age of the human condition never ceases to amaze me.

  • Kevin

    Thank you SPLC researchers for all the work you did on the ground to put together this report. Hopefully it will serve as a wake-up call to those in Suffolk County, New York to work hard to become more tolerant; hopefully, they will realize that immigrants have always made America strong. Your report ought to show those on Long Island just how out of sync they are with most of America. In early January 2009 we at Trends In Hate named Long Island as the Most Hateful Place to Live in the United States in 2008 (at our Hall of Shame) precisely because of the disturbing level of anti-Latino violence there.

  • Eugene Williams

    It certainly is a terrible thing to live in fear. Not knowing if you are going to be harmed and or someone you love will be harmed and to think that these people may not even know if they are safe when they are in their homes. Unfortunatly that is trully how the world is. Oh there are pockets of a little bit of peace here or there and defiently there are still many GOOD PEOPLE in this world and in the USA. It is true that anyone living in certain areas will live in a higher CLIMATE OF FEAR. New York is one of those places there is a high rate of people that live in a Climate Of Fear. It doesn’t matter who you are of what you are about. There will be someone there that will hate you. These crimes against Latinos are scattered everywhere. I think they usually come out of California but NY doesn’t surprise me at all. It would be great if everyone that hates anyone were not allowed to live in the USA. The population would DROP BIG TIME! Wow, imagine that

  • Randy Prince

    Alright!!!—you could take Suffolk County, New York and plop it right down in the middle of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, or South Carolina(and I’m from SC!!) and not miss a beat—-nice to see you “yankees” are showing your true colors—-isn’t this 2009??—you guys are taking lessons from the Jim Crow 101 class—-have the government hierarchy condone and advocate this abhorant racist behavior—-thank God there’s the SPLC to put the pressure on—-sic ’em, boys—

  • Vick

    I wonder what percentage of the latino immigrants in Suffolk County are there illegally? Did the SPLC put any effort in determining that? You might ask what difference that would knowing that make – my reply is that perhaps the residents of Suffolk County are upset by the presence of people who are living next to them illegally, against the will of the people of Suffolk County.

    After all, did we as a nation ever get a chance to vote on whether we wanted 20 million latinos to flood into this country over the past couple of decades? Rather than attributing “hate” as a motive, perhaps the SPLC should consider that people are frustrated with seeing their communities altered beyond recognition in an unpopular, undemocratic way.

  • beholder

    This is a very significant report. Latino populations are singled out perhaps more than any other ethnic group due to rampant stereotypes about illegal immigration. Our country has never gotten beyond the Frito Bandito phase of social development.