Wednesday, December 17, 2008

De la Isla: Hate crimes against Hispanics

In Houston, Marvin Nathan and Martin Cominsky, both of the Anti-Defamation Committee, wrote in response to a Houston Chronicle series about how law enforcement can fail to deport criminal undocumented immigrants who commit illegal acts. It's conventionally understood that anyone committing a crime should be properly arraigned, prosecuted, tried, if guilty punished and if unauthorized be deported.

But what struck Nathan and Cominsky was that "anti-immigrant bigots seized on parts of her (the reporter's) series to insult, stereotype and even advocate violence against immigrants and others they perceived as immigrants, especially Hispanics."

The blog entries they drew attention to called for denying due process, insisted immigrants pose a public-safety threat, accuse our country of leaning toward the "third world," and someone simply advocating "just shoot them on the spot."

So what have undocumented immigrants done to outrage and anger those people so much that they can't see straight? And why equate "Hispanic" to "illegal immigrant?" What incites them that they want to deny due process, as if suspicious people are just like those fellows at Guantanamo?

One thing is clear. They hate peaceable people. Nathan and Cominsky cite reports and studies proving immigrants of every type commit less crime. They bring up a Harvard professor who quantifies it to be 45 percent less.

So the nuts don't like people who commit less crime. What else?

Well, the evidence is they are losers. Look at the results of the 2006 mid-term elections. Among the most vehement anti-immigrant ranters in Congress who wanted to turn all 12 million unauthorized immigrants into felonious criminals, at least nine lost their House seats. These were members of the hateful 104-member House Immigration Reform Caucus. In 2008, 14 out of 16 hard-line, anti-immigration Republicans went down.

But as the mainstream of that movement goes away, the more fanatic believers they incite are showing up.

The Nov. 8 murder of Marcelo Lucero, 37, an Ecuadorean immigrant, in Suffolk County, N.Y., reached a new low in hate crimes and hate speech. Seven teenagers are charged with the gang assault. The one with the swastika tattoo on his leg stands accused of sticking a knife in Lucero's chest as the gang hollered racial epithets.

Prosecutors say the group attacked another Hispanic man a half-hour before that murderous assault. The seven admitted to beating Hispanics for fun as a regular pastime.

In Brooklyn, another Ecuadorean, 31-year-old Jose Sucuzhany, who was walking home arm-in-arm with his brother Romel because they had been drinking, were attacked with a baseball bat and bottles by four assailants in an SUV. The attackers are reported to have used bottles and an aluminum baseball bat and shouted anti-gay and anti-Latino slurs during the attack.

Sucuzhany was declared brain-dead Dec. 9. He stopped breathing five days later. A waiter for seven years, he earned his real estate license three years ago and launched his own agency, Open Realty International. So much for the American dream.

These are among the most recent and most grizzly atrocities.

While we may not know all the reasons why, we know enough. The attackers are message-carriers for others, not unlike the suicide bombers who carry messages for terrorists elsewhere in the world, except these "American patriots" are just homicidal, not suicidal. They didn't anticipate getting caught. Their deranged notions tie "illegal immigrants" and "Hispanics" with vigilante ideas about a problem that doesn't exist.

There you have it, a pretext to terrorize.

Treat the rants you listen to with caution. They are not about a broken government but about excuses to break it.

(Jose de la Isla, author of "The Rise of Hispanic Political Power," writes weekly commentaries for Hispanic Link News Service. Email: joseisla3(at) For more stories visit

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