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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.”