Our VoiceImmigration

STORM WARNING: A Special Account of Anti-Immigrant Violence

Guest Blogger • Mar 02, 2011

by Diane C.

Photo: Lowell Handler

Today, the Center for New Community, a national civil rights organization, released a powerful account of anti-immigrant violence in America. The report titled “Storm Warning” is an intense and sweeping narrative centered on the anti-immigrant activity of Suffolk County, New York.

From the 1980s up until roughly 2000, this seemingly idyllic All American community was comprised of mostly white residents. When an influx of immigrants came to the area, it gave rise to new fears and xenophobic activity.

As the years went on, these attitudes did not dissipate. Instead of embracing their new neighbors, hate grew in the hearts and the words of Suffolk County’s residents, resulting in harassment and violence.

These attitudes were passed on to a young generation that turned this fear and loathing of the “other” into a vicious pastime -“beaner-hopping,” that ultimately was the cause of Ecuadorian immigrant, Marcelo Lucero’s  murder in 2008.

Dubbed ‘Ground Zero’ of anti-immigrant activity, the suburb in Long Island where Lucero was killed is an example of hate hijacking a community. If only the tragedy of anti-immigrant activity and violence began and ended in Suffolk County.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

There are cities and towns all over the country that are on the verge of succumbing to the same activity that overtook Suffolk County. This situation didn’t happen overnight.

It’s clear that national restrictionist organizations, in tandem with local anti-immigrant activists, were planting the seeds of hatred in Suffolk County long before the death of Marcelo Lucero.

Due to the significant increase of immigrants in Suffolk County, groups such as the Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR) and Sachem Quality for Life (SQL) were able to capitalize on the community’s discomfort around immigration and elevate the situation by exploiting the fears of the residents.

This scenario has taken root in many towns.  For example, Fremont, Nebraska, a town that is touted as “livable and progressive,” fell prey to FAIR in 2010. With the help of FAIR’s legal arm, Immigration Reform Law Institute, this town of 25,000 now has a law on its books that prohibits all residents from renting property to anyone who is, or might be undocumented. The law is in conflict with the needs of the town which initially brought in foreign workers to help staff its growing meatpacking industry.

If you think this can’t happen to your own town, think again.

In Suffolk Country, the residents didn’t think they had a problem. They didn’t think the town’s values were giving rise to violent behavior. They didn’t think there was anything wrong with kids “beaner-hopping” or verbally harassing Latinos.

“The kids of Suffolk County soaked up the rhetoric and rationale for immigrant bashing from adults who were adept in the practice,” Ostendorf stated. “As a result, Marcelo Lucero was stabbed to death. The hatred that had been brewing for years took life itself.”

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