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Come to Patchogue to Oppose Anti-Immigrant Hatred

Eight years ago, during the same week that Barack Obama became the first non-white president, a group of young men murdered an immigrant in Patchogue on Long Island. The killing came after a years-long campaign by local politicians vilifying Latinos. The rhetoric of hatred helped create a generation of young white supremacists in Suffolk County. 

This was a horrific crime. The young killers had gone out attacking Latino immigrants nearly every weekend. They sometimes fire pellet guns at them, other times they beat them. On several occasions they sent their victims to the hospital. The New York Times described the situation at the time: 

That attack helped to identify Long Island with vicious anti-immigrant attitudes and violence. After the killing, scores of Latino residents came forward to say that they, too, had been hunted and harassed by white youths for years. The Suffolk County Police Department had routinely ignored their complaints; widespread reports of racial profiling and other police abuses prompted a Justice Department investigation and oversight

This week, words of hatred are again being spoken near the place where Ecuadoran immigrant Marcelo Lucero was stabbed to death in 2008. 

Suffolk County's political culture seemed to undergo great changes in the years following Marcelo Lucero's lynching. The County Executive Steve Levy left office in disgrace and the immigrant community pushed through reforms in local government. The Suffolk Police, which had ignored attacks on immigrants, came under the scrutiny of the Justice Department. 

But we should not have expected those reforms to be unchallenged. In the current atmosphere of political polarization, there are those who want to reopen the old wounds that did not heal after Marcelo Lucero's death. On Thursday, April 14, the national media will be back in Patchogue at the site where Lucero was stabbed. 

Long Islanders will hold a vigil at the murder scene to remind the world that words of hatred can kill. The vigil will be at the Patchogue Railroad Station and will take place between 4 PM and 6 PM. It is not a political protest. Although there will be protests later in the evening, this event is a silent vigil. Please don't display political signs during it. The vigil is being organized in conjunction with the Lucero family. 

- Pat Young is an attorney for CARECEN and a professor at Hofstra University where he teaches immigration law. 



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