United States Charged with Human Rights Violations

Guest Blogger • Dec 19, 2008

By Christina Iturralde

It is obvious that the United States is violating the human rights of Latinos living within the country’s borders by failing to protect its Latino residents. Latinos have been targeted, attacked, brutalized and murdered because of their race and ethnicity in incidents with rising frequency and severity throughout the United States.

In the past four months, three Latino men have lost their lives in racially-motivated attacks. Luis Eduardo Ramirez was beaten to death in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, in July when local teenagers attacked him, yelling racial epithets. In November, Marcelo Lucero was assaulted, stabbed and killed by a group of seven young men who had set out to go “beaner jumping” in Patchogue, New York. And, just last week, José Sucuzhañay was beaten to death in Brooklyn, NY, by men wielding baseball bats and broken bottles. LatinoJustice PRLDEF filed a petition Thursday with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights charging that the United States’ aggressive immigration enforcement policies have fostered an increasingly unsafe environment for U.S. Latinos, regardless of their legal status.

These immigration policies-which include midnight raids of private homes by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents - have been undertaken with little regard for the human rights of undocumented and documented immigrants.

We’ve all seen the statistics that say hate crimes against Latinos are on the rise. We’ve seen the hate spewed against immigrants, the anti-immigration ordinances, the English-only laws, the myths about Latinos fostered by FAIR and other hate groups. The federal government has helped foster that climate of hate with 287gs, with house raids, with breaking up of families and the general harassment of Latinos.

Instead of fulfilling its duty to protect, which is heightened given the dramatic increase in hate crimes against Latinos, the United States has done even less, as it has diverted its resources to immigration prosecution and enforcement efforts rather than instituting policies to ensure protection.

In Suffolk County, NY, where Marcello Lucero lived and was killed the number of undocumented immigrants referred to federal authorities has surged, from 44 people in 2004, when the county executive, Steve Levy, took office, to 2,289 last year. Police officers ask those they arrest about their immigration status and refer undocumented individuals to federal authorities.

”Many local governments take the point of view that they don’t want to ask that question,” Mr. Levy said. ”I think it’s ridiculous for localities to call themselves sanctuaries.” He called the notion that some people would stop cooperating with the police ”silly.”

Petitioners contend that such policies of local cooperation embolden those that would want to cause harm to immigrants and Latinos, and is evidenced by the number of incidents which are now being reported by those who have been afraid to report these crimes to police, as well as the County Police Department’s instructions to officers - suggesting there is an urgent problem.

The United States has an obligation to ensure the safety of all those who reside within its borders under the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. Specifically, the Declaration’s Article 1 states that “everyone has a right to life, liberty and security of person.”

Christina Iturralde is a lawyer with LatinoJustice PRLDEF, an organization that protects opportunities for all Latinos to succeed in school and work, fulfill their dreams, and sustain their families and communities.

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