NDLON in the News

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They’re a part of the Island: Immigrants contribute to community

As Long Islanders continue to react to the stabbing death of Marcelo Lucero, it’s surely time to take a deep breath and look honestly at the issues surrounding immigration here.

One thing this shocking attack makes clear is that there simply isn’t a bright line between legal and illegal immigrants. The group of teenagers charged in the killing were reportedly rallied by the call, “Let’s go find some Mexicans to — up.” Latinos walking around the Patchogue train station are likely to feel a deep chill in their spines for a long time to come, here regardless of whether they have working papers in their pockets. Immigrants from China and the Caribbean and Eastern Europe – and plenty of U.S.-born Long Islanders as well – may feel the same. It’s hard to create a welcoming climate for immigrants while at the same time provoking hostility to undocumented ones.

And make no mistake, immigrants are crucial to the New York economy. First-generation immigrants – documented and undocumented combined – are responsible for 22 percent of the gross domestic product in New York State, slightly higher than their 21 percent share of the state population.

That may be surprising. But consider that while day laborers may generate the most controversy, registered is the No. 1 occupation of all the immigrants in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Long Island has nearly 10,000 foreign-born s – almost one out of every three RNs here. And there are as many immigrant s and accountants as there are immigrant grounds maintenance workers and construction laborers.

Just because we can’t draw a neat line between documented and undocumented workers, however, doesn’t mean we should accept illegal immigration. Having undocumented workers is not good for the health of our society, just as being undocumented isn’t good for the immigrants.

Immigrants who have no official papers are clearly trapped at the bottom of the economic ladder. Sometimes they are paid less than minimum wage, and sometimes unscrupulous employers don’t pay them at all.

A common belief is that immigrants who are here illegally don’t pay taxes. But s taxes are paid by everyone – documented and undocumented, immigrant and U.S.-born. So are property taxes: Even if you rent, you are covering the cost of the property taxes paid by the owner. Together, these make up nearly all of Nassau and Suffolk county tax revenues.

It is true that a significant number of undocumented immigrants don’t file income tax returns. It is worth noting, though, that many do. In New York State, some 91,000 people – most probably undocumented workers – filed income taxes using Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers in 2003, and probably an even bigger number in subsequent years.

There are many good reasons to get all undocumented immigrants on the income-tax rolls. But doing so is unlikely to be a big revenue generator. Families with very low incomes who file regular tax returns are likely to qualify for more in tax credits than they owe in taxes.

At the same time, there are some important services that undocumented immigrants can’t use. Take Social Security. Many undocumented immigrants get work by using false Social Security numbers. That means they have Social Security taxes deducted from their paychecks – in fact, the Social Security Administration has estimated that nationwide most undocumented workers are paid this way. As of 2005, some $7 billion a year was collected from people with mismatched Social Security numbers, most of it from undocumented immigrants who will never collect Social Security benefits.

Wishing undocumented immigrants away isn’t a realistic solution, nor is closing down every business that hires workers illegally. Undocumented immigrants are a fact of everyday life on Long Island: cutting grass, caring for children, painting houses, washing dishes in restaurants.

Let’s get real about addressing the issues, rather than fanning the flames of intolerance. New York is already in a downturn, and a recession is no time to throw a damp rag on nearly a quarter of the economy.

A real solution would have three parts.

One: Raise the wages and improve working conditions in low-wage jobs, expanding opportunities for both immigrants and Americans who are citizens by birth.

Two: Create an earned path to citizenship, so that undocumented immigrants who are here today can move out of the unregulated economy and into regular jobs.

Three: Revise our immigration so there’s more opportunity to come to this country legally and less pressure for people to find unauthorized ways in.

What’s needed is a comprehensive national solution. As we work toward that on Long Island let’s tone down the anti-immigrant rhetoric. Because we are all hurt by a climate of fear and vigilantism.

http://www.newsday.com/news/opinion/ny-opkal205934139nov20,0,5424489.story

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Teenagers’ Violent ‘Sport’ Led to Killing on Long Island, Officials Say

Teenagers’ Violent ‘Sport’ Led to Killing on Long Island, Officials Say

Teenagers’ Violent ‘Sport’ Led to Killing on Long Island, Officials Say  

 

New York Times
Published: November 20, 2008

RIVERHEAD, N.Y. — Every now and then, perhaps once a week, seven young friends got together in their hamlet of Medford, on eastern Long Island, to hunt down, and hurt, Hispanic men. They made a sport of it, calling their victims “beaners,” a reference to the staple Hispanic dish of rice and beans, prosecutors said on Thursday.

Nov. 8 was a particularly long and violent day, the prosecutors said. Two of the teenagers set out in their car at dawn and one of them fired a BB gun at a Hispanic man in his driveway, striking him several times. That evening, the group, now seven strong, drank beer in a park and searched for more victims. They found and beat a Hispanic man in neighboring Patchogue, but he was able to escape.

Then, shortly before midnight, prosecutors said, they caught sight of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorean immigrant walking with a friend near the train station in Patchogue. The teenagers surrounded, taunted and beat Mr. Lucero, who tried to fight back. One of the youths fatally stabbed Mr. Lucero, 37, a worker at a dry cleaning store and 16-year resident of the United States who regularly sent money to his ailing mother in Ecuador.

Six of the seven teenagers, now defendants charged with multiple counts of gang assault and hate crimes, were arraigned Thursday in Suffolk County Criminal Court.

“To them, it was a sport,” Thomas J. Spota, Suffolk County’s district attorney, said in a news conference after the defendants were arraigned. “We know for sure that there are more victims out there.”

Moments earlier, one by one, the youths were led before a courtroom packed with their parents and high school friends, as well as Mr. Lucero’s relatives, many of whom wept as the prosecution detailed the chilling sequence of events.

A grand jury indictment, also unsealed on Thursday, laid out additional charges that the defendants now face for what prosecutors described as earlier crimes against Hispanics.

A seventh defendant, Jeffrey Conroy, 17, a star high school athlete, was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter as a hate crime in Mr. Lucero’s death. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday.

The judge set bail for five of the youths at $250,000 cash or $500,000 bond, and bail was denied to a sixth defendant, Christopher Overton, 16, who has a felony conviction for a 2007 burglary in which an East Patchogue man was killed.

All seven defendants have pleaded not guilty in the attack on Mr. Lucero.

In the courtroom, at a news conference and in the indictment itself, the prosecutors detailed the following chronology of events that preceded Mr. Lucero’s death.

Mr. Spota said three defendants, Anthony Hartford, Kevin Shea and Jose Pacheco, all 17, went out driving five days before Mr. Lucero was killed with the intent of, in their words, “beaner hopping.”

They found a Hispanic man that day whom Mr. Pacheco admitted to punching and knocking out cold, Mr. Spota said. That victim has not stepped forward. Mr. Pacheco later told the police, “I don’t go out and do this very often, maybe once a week,” Mr. Spota said.

About 5 a.m. on Nov. 8, Nicholas Hausch and Jordan Dasch, both 17, fired a BB gun at Marlon Garcia, hitting him several times. In the evening, the seven friends got together and, after failing to find potential victims in Medford, set off for Patchogue, where they saw Hector Sierra walking downtown. They caught up to him and punched him before he ran away.

Shortly before midnight, the teens saw Mr. Lucero and his friend, Angel Loja. They got out of their car and taunted the men with racist slurs. Mr. Loja fled, but the group surrounded Mr. Lucero and punched him in the face. Trying to defend himself, Mr. Lucero removed his belt and swung it, striking Mr. Conroy in the head. Enraged, Mr. Conroy rushed at Mr. Lucero and plunged a knife into his chest. The youths fled, but were soon caught by the police.

Mr. Conroy was the only one charged with murder, Mr. Spota said, because the other six defendants were initially unaware that he had stabbed Mr. Lucero.

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Lawyers for the six defendants arraigned on Thursday argued that their clients were being unfairly charged with crimes committed by others in the group. They also said that the defendants were not racist and pointed to the young men’s friends, black, white and Hispanic, filling the courtroom seats.

Chris Kirby, the lawyer for Mr. Pacheco, said in court that his client was of Hispanic descent and therefore incapable of a racist attack. “The idea that he, of Hispanic heritage, would beat up another Hispanic is patently absurd,” Mr. Kirby said.

Mr. Lucero’s killing has brought to the fore a fierce debate about race relations in Patchogue, a comfortable village of 11,700. Latinos make up a quarter of the population, according to the 2000 census. With the numbers of Latinos in the county growing and the economy weakening , some residents say there is a deepening resentment toward illegal immigrants, particularly day laborers.

County officials have insisted the attack was not connected to any simmering racial tensions in Patchogue or Medford. County Executive Steve Levy, long a proponent of crackdowns on illegal immigrants, called the defendants “white supremacists.” Michael Mostow, the superintendent of Patchogue-Medford School District, said there was no racial strife at the high school the teenagers attended and described the attack as “an aberration.”

The killing of Mr. Lucero yielded an outpouring of outrage and grief that rippled beyond the tightly knit Hispanic community here. His body was flown this week to his hometown, the mountain city of Gualaceo, Ecuador, and mourners by the hundreds met his coffin,Newsday reported

At a news conference after the arraignments, Hispanic leaders and members of Mr. Lucero’s family said they were pleased with the upgraded charges. At first, the defendants were accused of fewer crimes, and Mr. Conroy faced a charge of manslaughter, but not murder.

Cesar Perales, president and general counsel of the advocacy group Latino Justice P.R.L.D.E.F. said the new charges were important in restoring Hispanics’ faith in the county’s justice system.

Fernando Mateo, a spokesman for the Lucero family, said that while he was pleased that “justice would be served,” he did not believe recent reports that hate crimes had plummeted in the county in the last few years. “Hunting season is over for this group now,” Mr. Mateo said, as Mr. Lucero’s brother, Joselo, stood silently by his side. “It was a hobby to them, I know it started out as a game, but it turned into a murder.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/21/nyregion/21immigrant.html?pagewanted=2&_r=2

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Immigrant mourned by thousands

Immigrant mourned by thousands

Published Nov 19, 2008 6:43 PM

Seven suburban youths from Patchogue-Medford High School on Long Island decided to go out in their SUV on Saturday night, Nov. 8, and “f _ _ _ up a Mexican.” When they came across Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero on his way to a friend’s house, they jumped him and beat him. Jeffrey Conroy, a local high school athlete, has been charged with first-degree manslaughter in the stabbing death of Lucero.

Immigrant mourned by thousands
Long Island vigil where Ecuadorian
immigrant was murdered.
Photo: Martha Rojas

On a rainy Friday night following the murder, more than 2,000 people gathered at the site of Lucero’s killing for a memorial vigil. Religious and government officials counseled peacefulness and reconciliation, but many people held signs asking for a reckoning.

Lucero was the eldest son of a poor Ecuadorian family. He left his home 16 years ago at the age of 22 to take the long and dangerous trip to the United States to find work. He traveled to Patchogue in Suffolk County, New York, a magnet for Ecuadorian families.

Marcelo Lucero worked for many years in a dry cleaning store, went to church and sent money home to his mother so she could build a house and survive. He was often sad and lonely and called his mother several times a week. (Newsday, Nov. 16)

Anti-Black and anti-immigrant history

Immigrant mourned by thousands
May 1 Coalition for Immigrant Rights
in Patchogue, N.Y., Nov. 14.
Photo: Carlos Canales

Suffolk County has a long racist history. White colonists stole the land from Indigenous people in the 17th century. The enslavement of Africans was legal there until 1827.

In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan held rallies in full white-sheeted regalia in Huntington, originally the Suffolk County seat. The Nazi Party chose to set up “Camp Siegfried” in the Suffolk village of Yaphank in the 1930s. Lucero worked just eight miles from there.

Racist realtors have promoted “racial steering” in the growing white suburbs from the 1950s to the present, forcing Black families into designated Black communities with inferior schools and social services. Suffolk County police have been notoriously racist in these communities.

U.S. policies have created a system of forced migration for millions of people. “Free trade” agreements have devastated the national economies of most of the countries of Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Millions have left behind their beloved families to become low-wage laborers in the capitalist world market.

Racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric from media “stars” like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity of Fox News has labeled immigrants “illegal aliens.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy garnered votes by pandering to reactionary groups in the county and spearheading numerous anti-immigrant bills in the county legislature.

The Mexican Consulate, investigating racist attacks on Mexican immigrants in Farmingville—about 10 miles from where Lucero was killed—compared the region to the Arizona border for the abuse of immigrants. Levy did nothing in the face of fire bombings of Latin@s’ houses, attempted murders of Mexican day laborers, racist beatings, and police harassment of Latin@ residents. (AP, Nov. 16)

Levy’s policies mirror federal law, which has produced the terrible Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids on workplaces. These raids have intensified in the past year and have resulted in the deportation of 345,000 immigrants so far in 2008, up 16.5 percent from last year. (Boston Globe, Nov. 7)

Political reputations have been made or destroyed by adherence to the anti-immigrant line—from former Gov. Elliot Spitzer in New York, who dared to suggest that undocumented people should be able to get drivers’ licenses, to Sheriff Joe Arapaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, who has become the hero of the Aryan Nation, the Klan and the Minutemen as he conducts a campaign of terror and racial profiling in Phoenix and its environs.

George W. Bush’s Department of Homeland Security has spent billions of tax dollars to fund the raids and incarceration of hundreds of thousands of immigrants of color.

Anti-immigrant policies benefit corporations profiting from the immigrant-prison-industrial complex. The Border Patrol provides the best-paying jobs available for youth in the Southwestern U.S.

When the press and government conspire to demonize a specific group, that is institutionalized racism. As a result, a 40-percent rise in racist anti-immigrant attacks since 2003 preceded the murder of Marcelo Lucero. (AP, Nov. 16)

On that November night when the teenagers decided to ride around looking for a Mexican to attack, they were motivated by the rhetoric of County Executive Levy. They were inspired by public officials who confer legitimacy on anti-immigrant groups in Suffolk and across the U.S.

Foreclosures, low wages and unemployment are hitting hard on Long Island. Bankruptcies are up 77 percent. Anti-immigrant politicians promote racism to obs the real reasons for the economic decline. They inspired the adolescent killers of Marcelo Lucero.

At the vigil, a young Salvadoran man stood on a roof and held up a sign, “The murder of Marcelo Lucero is the responsibility of Steve Levy.”

Carlos Canales of the Workplace Project, an organizer of day laborers in nearby Farmingville, said, “They haven’t permitted the people to speak up and to tell our real feelings which show our anger, which shout our sorrow for the death of Marcelo. They ask us to live in peace, but we can never live in peace because there is no peace if there is no justice.”

Canales told Workers World that Steve Levy is “the spiritual leader of the doctrine of racial hatred” who promotes the “legalization and implementation of the most effective local anti-immigrant laws” in Suffolk County, the most segregated county in the U.S. (AP, Nov. 16)

During the vigil, many circulated a petition asking New York State Gov. David Paterson to call for the resignation of Levy. The May 1st Coalition plans a protest at the governor’s offices in Manhattan on Nov. 21.

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Casa opens new day-laborer center in Crossroads

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Day laborers struggle in tough economy

By Crystal Walker
Wednesday, and November 19, 2008 at 6:46 p.m.

Minutes before sunrise, people line up looking for work at Labor Ready in downtown Columbia.

The business offers people a day’s work and a day’s pay, but there are no guarantees.

“If they don’t have any work, I’m stuck or just out here, putting out applications,” Devante McCor said.

McCor is a brick mason by trade and says it’s tough to find regular work right now.

“But I still get out here and put out applications, you know what I’m saying, let them know that I’m looking for work, you know what I’m saying, got skills, you know what I’m saying, a lot of stuff, and well there all, if we have anything we’ll call you,” McCor said.

USC Professor Paulo Guimares says South Carolina’s construction jobs have been on a steady decline since January.

“It’s likely to shed some more jobs, because housing permits are down and they keep trending down,” Guimares said.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, South Carolina lost an estimated 16,000 construction jobs between January and September, leaving workers like McCor stuck out in the cold.

“My plans is to get myself back on my feet, go to school,” McCor said.

He says education is his ticket to a lasting employment.

http://www.midlandsconnect.com/news/news_story.aspx?id=224694

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Patchogue rebirth overshadowed by immigrant’s slaying

n a once-desolate stretch of Main Street in Patchogue, check local officials just two weeks ago joined business owners to break ground on a new YMCA, a $19.2 million anchor to the downtown’s western side.

County Executive Steve Levy said the project would make Patchogue “a destination place, there ” bringing energy and business downtown.

It is the latest step in Patchogue’s revitalization, a process that has seen store vacancies on Main Street shrink from about 50 percent 12 years ago to less than 20 percent today. Soon, ground could be broken on the biggest breakthrough yet: a seven-story or higher hotel on the site of the former Swezey’s department store, along with 250 housing units and tens of thousands of feet of new stores.

But in the past week, the village’s upswing was overshadowed by the killing of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero, 37, in what Suffolk police have labeled a hate crime.

Some members of the Spanish-speaking community, even longtime residents, have come forward to say they feel unsafe in their neighborhoods, but often are hesitant to go to the police for fear of deportation. And the village mayor has embarked on a door-to-door campaign in Hispanic districts to assure residents that the village cares about their welfare.

The Nov. 8 killing has shaken the blue-collar, bay-side community, where for decades whites and a growing Latino population have co-existed in seeming harmony.

“We are one of the few communities where the intertwining of the two communities has worked very well,” said Fernando Quinones, a deacon at St. Frances de Sales Roman Catholic Church and coordinator of the Brookhaven Hispanic Ministry. “It’s surprising to see something like this happen. It comes as such a shock.”

It is a sentiment repeated over and over in conversations with local residents, business people and officials. Unlike nearby Farmingville, which is marked by tensions between white residents and a recent influx of Mexican day laborers, in Patchogue the melding of ethnic groups seemed to be working.

“I’ve lived here 78 years and we’ve never had anything like this before,” said Abie Siegal, owner of the family-run Blum’s clothing store, where he has worked since 1951. “It’s a very diverse community that has been getting along for many years.”

Still, in the wake of Lucero’s killing, stories have emerged of Latinos who say they have been harassed, beaten, cursed or spat upon. Said Flavio Lojano, who lives near the site of the Lucero stabbing: “This is not right, fighting between Spanish and American people.”

Lori Devlin, a village trustee, said employees at Gallo Tropical, a Colombian restaurant on Main Street, have told of attacks. “We were surprised to learn how much of their employees have been beaten up,” she said. “No one should think they can’t safely walk home from work.”

Latinos started arriving in Patchogue in significant numbers with an influx of Puerto Ricans in the 1950s. They were followed in the 1980s by Central Americans fleeing civil wars in their home countries.

By the early to mid-1990s, Ecuadoreans started arriving, and today they make up the largest segment of the Latino population, said the Rev. Andrew Connolly, who used to work at St. Frances de Sales.

Census figures show Latinos have increased from 14 percent of Patchogue’s population in 1990 to 24 percent in 2000. Mayor Paul Pontieri estimates it may be 30 percent today.

Some locals note the some of alleged attackers came not from Patchogue but neighboring Medford, without a tradition of diversity and integration. But problems that some associate with the influx of Latinos – complaints of overcrowded housing, for example – anger some residents in both places.

“Main Street is like Mexico, basically,” said Nancy Tanzey, who has lived in Patchogue for 25 years. “There’s three or four families living in one house.”

Still, Quinones said Latinos and whites often mingle. He noted that St. France de Sales holds an annual bilingual Thanksgiving Day Mass, and another each year with an outdoor picnic. It’s attended by Latinos and whites, and features Spanish food along with traditional American fare.

By all accounts, the village has made great strides toward turning itself into another Huntington or Babylon with a bustling downtown and trendy restaurants. The Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts, for instance, a 1920s vaudeville theater that reopened in 1998 after being closed for more than a decade, welcomed 135,000 people last year. That is twice the patronage in 2004, when Pontieri took office, he said.

Scores of affordable apartments and condos have sprung up between Main Street and the Long Island Rail Road station – the same station that was near the site of the attack on Lucero.

Pontieri, who spent the week at rallies, vigils and church services, said he believes the 115-year-old village can overcome the tragedy, although it won’t be easy. “Will it be a temporary stain?” he said. “I’m a supreme optimist.”

Greg Warrington, 26, who in September opened another of Patchogue’s new restaurants, the Pura Vida Burrito Co., agreed. “A few idiots in the high school can’t define what Patchogue is. It’s a melting pot of different cultures,” he said. “It would be a shame if this town is depicted as having a lot of underlying hatred.”

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