It’s been a little over a week since a group of youth in Suffolk County took the life of Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero, stabbing him to death in what law enforcement officers frighteningly defined as “a hunt to beat up some Mexicans.” Recently, seventeen year-old Jeffrey Conroy has been charged with a hate crime for his alleged role in Lucero’s murder.
Since his murder, neighbors, friends, and family alike are struggling to come to terms with this senseless tragedy. Just how did seven young people, all of them about to embark on their own adult paths, ever come to believe that they had both a duty and the permission to destroy someone simply because they perceived him to be an immigrant? All of us, not just the community of Suffolk County, have a responsibility to pursue the answers to such questions.
After all, it is with such questions that we process to mutually define our culture.
“After organizing in Long Island for nearly a year, FAIR’s work began to bear results. In August 2001, Christopher Slavin and Ryan Wagner (also young men) used the pretense of work to lure two immigrants into an abandoned building on Long Island. The pair then attempted to murder them with hammers. Why?“
During that one tragic moment before midnight on November 8th, Marcelo Lucero became America’s “canary in a coal mine.” In the wake of the failure to secure any meaningful or rationale immigration reforms at the national level, Lucero’s brutal murder should serve as a warning of a coming social collapse. If we continue to ignore or, worse, dismiss it, this crisis will wound our civil society, our multicultural democracy, and the strides we made during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Suffolk County, like the rest of America, after all, is not immune from the poison of anti-immigrant organizing. For nearly ten years, organizations like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) have been on the ground in Long Island layering communities with their rancid fertilizers of racism, xenophobia, and social Darwinism.
The results have been devastating.
To understand “who” FAIR is exactly, one only has to look to its founder, John Tanton. Tanton has long believed in eugenics; practitioners of this “scientific study” purport that the white race is genetically superior to all others. Tanton still lords over FAIR’s board despite his long and well documented ties to white supremacists. For instance, in a paper entitled “The Case for Passive Eugenics,” he wrote:
“Hitler’s reign in Nazi Germany did little to advance the discussion of eugenics among sensitive persons.”
After organizing in Long Island for nearly a year, FAIR’s work began to bear results. In August 2001, Christopher Slavin and Ryan Wagner (also young men) used the pretense of work to lure two immigrants into an abandoned building on Long Island. The pair then attempted to murder them with hammers. Why? Because the victims were Mexican immigrants. At the time, those who had been infected by FAIR’s dystopian view of immigrant-existence dubbed the attack, rather aloofly, an “isolated event.”
Seven years later the logic of these bigots remains unrevised. Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, who founded a FAIR front organization called Mayors and County Executives for Immigration Reform, said the following in regards to the veritable lynching of Marcelo Lucero: “The beating, stabbing and killing of Marcello Lucero wasn’t a question of any county policy or legislation; it was a question of bad people doing horrific things” (see Associated Press, November 12, 2008).
In response, myriad newspapers and media sources across the country have correctly underlined and highlighted the heated rhetoric that FAIR and other anti-immigrant groups churn out as the plaque within the main arteries fueling ever-growing attacks across the country.
Yes, seven youth are responsible for erasing the life of a thirty seven year-old man who was just on his way to a friend’s house to watch a movie; however, FAIR and Steve Levy should claim their share—they helped to create the environment that allowed seven youths to believe that beating immigrants was socially acceptable.
FAIR and Steve Levy cannot dump their shares of such responsibility, as much as they may try, when for years they have declared to those very same youths that, like the Dred Scott Decision, “immigrants have no rights that citizens need respect.”
Several days later, Levy finally understood that onlookers worldwide were recognizing his disregard for the situation.
He duly back peddled. As reported by Newsday, he tepidly issued a half-hearted attempt at an apology. In his statement Levy neither apologizes for manipulating the facts surrounding immigration nor does he seek forgiveness for his continual portrayal of immigrants as an infectious criminal element, nor does he seize the opportunity to finally distance himself from the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Instead, Levy only quote-unquote apologizes for previously stating that Lucero’s brutal murder was a “one-day story.”
There are many views and opinions regarding immigration in the USA, but as individuals who comprise communities that comprise a country, we’ve arrived at a point where we must understand that Levy/FAIR and their allies choose to only represent an ideology steeped in bigotry and hatred. Throughout our history, as on the morning of November 9th, we have come to recognize the costs of such abhorrent views—their results are brands pressed across the bruised and battered body of Marcelo Lucero.
In the days to come we will see Steve Levy and FAIR cowering behind PR-esque rhetoric they’ve drafted for just such occasions. They will attempt to shield themselves from responsibility by manipulating our senses of reconciliation and our attempts to find a “middle ground” amidst the tangible tensions surrounding this murder.
That in mind, it is time for each of us to draw a clear moral barrier against anti-immigrant bigotry. Marcelo Lucero was not the problem and neither is any immigrant, documented or not. The problem lies with those who continue to inject bigotry into the issue of immigration; this problem survives because we the American public fail, time and again, to hold these haters accountable for their words, the tools with which they carve cultural niches wherein their hate can root.
Their tools are tools forged from racial arrogance; these are the tools with which they seek to separate us, to plunge us and our communities into the tar pits of America’s civil history when some of us were regarded as Three-Fifths of a human being, where some of us were murdered for being in “the wrong part of town after dark.”
No more, I say.
It is time to shun organizations like the Federation for American Immigration Reform and our supposed leaders like Steve Levy, for he and those like him have nothing to offer us Americans but fear and shock doctrine, lies and doctored statistics, and now a social platform for murder and other “isolated event[s].”
If we fail to stand together with Marcelo Lucero by rejecting Steve Levy and his ilk only one truth will remain clear—that while blood may be on the hands of Levy, FAIR, and those seven youths, it surely is and will remain on ours, as well.