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Editorial: Latinos in Danger

El Diario/La Prensa, Editorial, Staff Posted: Nov 14, 2008

NEW YORK -- We all know someone like Marcelo Luceroan immigrant who was working hard, sending money home to help his family in Ecuador, dreaming of returning to the country he left but already long settled and accustomed to a nation that has benefited from generations of men and women like him.

This was lost on the gang of youths that hunted for a Mexican, as reported, surrounded Lucero and who one of them killed last Saturday in Patchogue, Long Island.

The attack comes as a trial gets underway for another bias-motivated crime. Over the summer, a gang attacked another immigrant, Luis Ramirez, in Shenandoah, Pa. And it was only last month that the FBI reported that a dangerous trend continueshate crimes against Latinos have increased by 40 percent since 2003. Of all hate crimes targeting national origin and ethnicity, 62 percent are committed against Latinos.

Those statistics may not reflect the full extent of these crimes. The Southern Poverty Law Center says undocumented immigrants are least likely to report a hate crime.

In Suffolk County, where Lucero was attacked and stabbed to death, Executive Steve Levy released a five-point plan to promote tolerance in communities and schools. But the big point that Levy and others are missing is that hate crimes do not occur in a vacuum. In the last several years, the immigration debate has been hostile, vigilantism has sprouted, dozens of municipalities have initiated ordinances to chase out undocumented immigrants and radio show hosts have whipped up xenophobia.

Yet some people, like Levy, do not want to see any correlation between the rise of hate crimes and the hostility towards immigrants. Sadly, the tone and frenzy around immigration put Luceros mother in the position to have to remind us of who immigrants are: We are human beings, she said.

Community, religious and civil rights organizations are mobilizing around this attack. The Ecuador consul general's office is pushing to have charges upgraded to second-degree murder from manslaughter because of the premeditated nature of the hate crime. We need visible leadership also from our state legislators, who appear to be busy with political squabbling.

Levys plan includes a hate's not cool campaign in schools. Beyond an '80s throwback awareness campaign, adultswith their own speech and behaviorhave to actively uphold the American value of tolerance. This is not simply a matter of principle but of protecting lives that are at stake.

Related Articles:

Editorial: Anti-Latino Hatred Fueled by Right-Wing Radio

Spanish-Language Media Decries Long Island Hate Crime

Teens Kill Man for 'Being Hispanic'

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