Local journalists, politicians and residents continue to dissect and respond to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s scathing report on anti-immigrant hatred in Suffolk County, but its contents are almost certainly a disturbing wake-up call.
The SPLC’s report became public only hours after congregants of a Patchogue church found anti-Latino slurs on their alter. The Iglesia Evangelica Refugio de Salvacion is near the train station at which seven teenagers allegedly beat Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero to death last November. And two teenagers allegedly assaulted another Ecuadorian at the same location last month.
The report particularly singles out Suffolk executive Steve Levy.
“[He] isn’t the only public official engaging in the verbal immigrant-bashing, or the most extreme,” the SPLC concludes. “But he is the highest-ranking, and since he was elected to his first term in November 2003 after promising a crackdown on illegal immigrants, Levy has been acting like the enabler-in-chief.”
Boy in Bushwick echoed the New York Times’ editorial after Lucero’s death that highlighted Levy’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. He responded to the report soon after the SLPC released it.
“While we can continue to disagree about policies related to the economic and social impacts of illegal immigration, we can all agree that any violence against a fellow human being cannot and will not be tolerated,” Levy said in a http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/03/nyregion/03suffolk.html?em.
One can arguably question Levy’s sincerity based on a series of well-documented previous statements, but the issue is not about someone’s documentation. The fact remains immigrants continue to live in fear of harassment and violence in Suffolk. Local law enforcement, politicians and residents alike have a fundamental responsibility to ensure everyone in the county is able to live, work and play without fear. A failure to guarantee this fundamental right is nothing short of an atrocity.