One year ago, seven teenage boys in Suffolk County, Long Island, NY were trying to find a way to spend their Saturday night. Sounds like a typical American teenage night of boredom, but it would end in senseless hate, violence and death. The seven boys set out to do some “beaner jumping”. Yes, you read that right. These boys set out with the intention of finding a Latino to beat.
They found Marcelo Lucero, a 37 year old Ecuadorian immigrant who had been living in the United States for 16 years. They beat and stabbed him to death.
I remember writing about this a year ago. I was fairly new to the pro-migrant blogosphere and was still reeling from the murder of Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah, PA.
Its hard to fully wrap my head around this idea. These boys were searching for a person of Hispanic heritage – ANY person of hispanic heritage. Where does this intense hatred come from?
Though after writing that initial post I soon learned about Steve Levy, the Suffolk county executive who had consistently been pushing a hardline anti-immigrant agenda in the area, and I started connecting the dots.
Then in September, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a report that found immigrants in Suffolk County had been living in a constant climate of fear for their safety and their lives.
Mamita Mala at VivirLatino really makes the connection in her post remembering Marcelo Lucero:
I do not draw a line separated the violence unleashed on our communities based on whether it is committed by private individuals or individuals action on behalf of the local, state or federal government. One allows and promotes the other. The continuing criminalization of immigrant communities dehumanizes and sends a message to private citizens that immigrants/Latinos/Mexicans are all criminal anyway, not worthy of protection under the law or justice.
And today, while we remember Marcelo Lucero, we must also continue to fight the dehumanization and criminalization that Mamita Mala points to in the above lines.
In a timely development of this story, yesterday one of Marcelo Lucero’s attackers plead guilty in court:
Nicholas Hausch, 18, pleaded guilty to four counts to settle a nine-count indictment, including conspiracy, gang assault, assault as a hate crime and attempted assault as a hate crime in the Nov. 8, 2008, killing of Marcelo Lucero.
Hausch will testify against the six other boys facing jail time for the brutal murder. Hopefully justice will be served, but what will that justice mean for Marcelo Lucero’s family? For the Suffolk county community? For Latinos facing hate and xenophobia daily? For the character of our country as a whole?
A court of law will not make this right.
I will close this post with something I wrote a year ago – where I quoted a moving NY Times editorial about Marcelo Lucero’s murder.
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.
On Saturday, there will be a candlelight vigil in memory of Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue, NY. I hope those of you who live in New York can attend – I wish I could be there in person.
Please visit the Long Island Wins website to sign the petition real immigration solutions to avoid more tragedies like the one in Patchogue.