In July of 2008, 25-year old Luis Ramirez lost his life after he was knocked unconscious and kicked in the head by a group of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania teenagers who yelled racial epithets before and during the brutal beating. In November, 37-year old Marcelo Lucero was ferociously beaten and fatally stabbed in Long Island, New York by a group of teenagers who hunted him down simply for being Latino. Only a month later, we mourned the murder in Brooklyn, New York of Jose Osvaldo Sucuzhañay, whose life was violently taken by a group of people, and whose crime, according to witnesses, was motivated by hate-filled bigotry.
In the past several years, hate crimes against Latinos have risen 40%. This is a national epidemic whose growth is spurred each day by hate speech, distortion of facts, and anti-immigrant sentiment expressed on cable shows, local radio shows and across the airwaves.
National legislation, such as the “Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act,” must be a top priority for the next Congress and the new Administration, but it is not sufficient to reach the hate that threatens to pervade local communities. This drastic rise of hate crimes against Latinos, not coincidentally, has occurred during the same years in which there has been an explosive rebirth of extremist anti-immigrant rhetoric and measures.
MALDEF calls upon national representatives, faith leaders, educators, and parents to stand up and take immediate action against this national wave of hatred. Local and federal authorities must prosecute hate crimes to the fullest extent under law. Local officials and media personalities must take responsibility for the consequences of their extremist rhetoric and should spread messages of respect and tolerance. For too long, anti-immigrant and anti-Latino messages have lead to increased bigotry and violence against Latinos and have been disseminated and promoted in the public sphere with very little fact checking. In response, MALDEF launched “Truth in Immigration” in 2008 to rebut legal and factual inaccuracies about immigrants and Latinos in the United States. Truth in Immigration examines and refutes cases where the media has made false claims on immigration, including Lou Dobbs’s false claim on immigration and leprosy and Glen Beck’s false statement that undocumented immigrants have no legal rights. MALDEF calls on all Americans to unite against this wave of hatred and defeat the intolerance and violence.
MALDEF Condemns Anti-Immigrant Murders in Florida
February 27, 2009
WASHINGTON, DC — In the early hours of February 26, Dannie Baker, a 60-year-old Florida resident, left his townhouse armed with a rifle, walked across the complex to a neighboring unit, and opened fire on a quiet gathering of young, unsuspecting Latino residents in Miramar Beach. When the rampage ceased, two individuals were found dead, and three others critically injured. All five victims were Chilean students participating in a foreign exchange program.
While details about the suspect’s motives are few, news reports are pointing to previous anti-immigrant statements made by Baker. One neighbor recalls an incident when Baker “[came] up to me one time and asked me if I was ready for the revolution to begin and if I had any immigrants in my house to get them out.” Baker often volunteered for political campaigns, but stopped after local Republicans started receiving “radical” and “inappropriate” emails from him. Allegedly, the e-mails were so disturbing that volunteers reported them to the Walton County Sheriff’s Office.
These murders trail an alarming rise of hate crimes committed against Latinos in recent years. Last summer, Luis Ramirez was fatally beaten in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania by four youths who yelled racial epithets before and after the beating. A few months later, Marcelo Lucero was beaten to death in Long Island, New York and Jose Osvaldo Sucuzhañay, a 31 year-old Brooklyn, New York resident of Ecuadorian descent, died after being beaten with a baseball bat by attackers shouting anti-Latino and anti-gay epithets.
MALDEF Southeastern Regional Counsel Elise Shore stated, “While we have no way of knowing Mr. Baker’s motives, his previous comments resemble the type of language we see on anti-immigrant forums online, where misinformation about immigrants and violent rhetoric thrive. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently reported a drastic rise in the number of hate groups, and we know that the toxicity of anti-immigrant hate knows no boundaries — it seeps into our schools and our local communities, as this recent incident demonstrates.”
MALDEF calls on the local police department to pursue hate crime charges if investigations reveal that the murders were motivated by hate. MALDEF is outraged by this senseless loss of innocent life and will continue to monitor the progress of the investigation until justice is served. We urge the police department to restore peace and bring justice to the community.
MALDEF Calls For National Action In Wake Of Killing Of Third Latino Victim Of A Hate Crime in Five Months
December 10, 2008
LOS ANGELES, CA — Today, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) President & General Counsel John Trasviña called upon leaders across all communities to unite and speak out against hate violence:
“We mourn and are outraged by the murder in Brooklyn, New York of Jose Osvaldo Sucuzhañay, whose life was violently taken by a group of people, and whose crime, according to witnesses, was motivated by hate-filled bigotry. Only one month ago, 37-year old Marcello Lucero was ferociously beaten and fatally stabbed in Long Island, New York by a group of teenagers who hunted him down simply for being Latino. In July, 25-year old Luis Ramirez lost his life after he was knocked unconscious and kicked in the head by a group of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania teenagers who yelled racial epithets before and during the brutal beating. We extend our sympathies to their families and loved ones.
In the past several years, hate crimes against Latinos have risen 40 percent. This is a national epidemic whose growth is spurred each day by hate speech and anti-immigrant sentiment expressed on cable shows, local radio shows and across the airwaves.
National legislation, such as the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act, must be a top priority for Congress and the new Administration, but it is not sufficient to reach the hate that threatens to pervade local communities. This drastic rise of hate crimes against Latinos, not coincidentally, has occurred during the same years in which there has been an explosive rebirth of extremist anti-immigrant rhetoric and measures. The serious topic of immigration has been contaminated by hatred and racism, and has created a toxic climate which fosters and condones violence and civil rights violations motivated by bigotry. In seeking to enact unconstitutional anti-immigrant ordinances, irresponsible elected officials spew inflammatory rhetoric that depicts undocumented immigrants as parasites and the root cause of the nation’s fallen economy. Television and radio personalities spread misinformation and stereotypes that criminalize and dehumanize Latino immigrants. Meanwhile, white supremacist groups are using this anti-immigrant wave to promote their racist groups and promote violent acts against Latinos. Collectively, the messages and norms they seek to establish are that immigrants are less human and less worthy, and do not merit basic human rights protections our Constitution demands. These messages have begun to infect too many Americans, and they are being manifested through violence. Unfortunately, our elected leaders have failed to recognize and condemn this national crisis, the media has largely remained silent, and families have not acted to protect their children from being infected from this hatred.
As proven by this year’s historic election, the great majority of Americans have defeated artificial barriers of racism and ushered us into a new era. After over a century of struggle for freedom and democracy irrespective of race, Americans have abolished the disease of racial hatred; however, a virus continues to linger with some, and we must not allow it to proliferate. There are those that may believe that racism and xenophobia will always exist, but it must not exist in our country, in our democratic institutions, in our schools, and in our homes. We must be ever-vigilant, and stamp it out where we see it.
MALDEF calls upon our national representatives, faith leaders, educators, and parents to stand up and take immediate action against this national wave of hatred. We again call on Congress and the next President to fix our broken, archaic immigration system to establish national immigration priorities, including community integration that serves the nation’s interests, allows newcomers to work with legal status and protections against exploitation, and safeguards the nation’s communities. Local and federal authorities must prosecute hate crimes to the fullest extent under law. Local officials and media personalities must take responsibility for the consequences of their extremist rhetoric and should spread messages of respect and tolerance. Most importantly, we call on all Americans to unite against this wave of hatred and defeat the hate and violence. It is unacceptable and we must stop it now.”
MALDEF Hace Un Llamado A Lideres Atras Todas Comunidades Para Unirse Y Condenar La Violencia De Odio Y Despertar La Conciencia Nacional Sobre Esta Epidemis Nacional
December 10, 2008
LOS ANGELES, CA — Hoy, John Trasviña, Presidente del Fondo Méxicano Americano para la Defensa Legal y de la Educación llamo a lideres de todas comunidades para unirse y condenar la violencia de odio:
“Lamentamos y estamos indignados por el asesinato en Brooklyn, New York de Jose Osvaldo Sucuzhañay, cual vida fue violentamente y prematuramente arrancada por un grupo de personas motivados por odio y racismo. Solamente hace un mes, Marcello Lucero de 37 años fue golpeado y fatalmente acuchillado en Long Island, New York por un grupo de jóvenes quienes lo cazaron simplemente por ser Latino. El 14 de Julio, Luis Ramirez de 25 años perdió su vida después de caer al piso inconsciente y ser pateado en la cabeza por un grupo de jóvenes en Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, quienes gritaron insultos raciales antes y después de la golpiza brutal. Les mandamos nuestro pésame a sus familias y seres queridos.
En los últimos años, los crimines de odio contra los Latinos han aumentado el 40 por ciento. Esta un una epidemia nacional que esta creciendo al diario por el discurso de odio y sentimientos anti-inmigrantes expresados en programas de cable, radio y atrás otros medios.
La legislación nacional, tal como la ley de prevención de crímenes de odio de la agencia del orden publico local, debe de ser una prioridad alta para el Congreso y la nueva Administración, pero no es suficiente solamente alcanzar el odio que amenaza a las comunidades locales. No es coincidencia que este aumento dramático de crímenes de odio en contra de Latinos ha ocurrido durante los mismos años en que ha habido un renacimiento explosivo de medidas y retórico extremista anti-inmigrante. El tema serio de la inmigración ha sido contaminado por odio y racismo, y ha creado un ambiente toxico que fomenta y aprueba la violencia y las violaciones de derechos civiles motivados por la intolerancia. En sus esfuerzos de promulgar ordenanzas anti-inmigrantes inconstitucionales, oficiales electos irresponsables lanzan retórica inflamatoria que pinta a los inmigrantes indocumentados como la raíz de nuestra economía. Personalidades de televisión y radio difunden desinformación y estereotipos que criminalizan y deshumanizan a los inmigrantes Latinos. Mientras tanto, grupos de supremistas blancos están usando esta ola anti-inmigrante para promover sus grupos racistas y promover actos violentos en contra de Latinos. Colectivamente, estos mensajes y normas que estos grupos buscan establecer son que los inmigrantes son menos humanos y menos dignos, que no merecen las protecciones de los derechos humanos básicos y de ser tratados con la decencia básica humana que nuestra constitución exige. Estos mensajes han alcanzado las mentes y corazones de algunos americanos, y estos mensajes se están manifestando a través de la violencia. Desafortunadamente, nuestros líderes elegidos han fallado en reconocer y condenar esta crisis nacional, los medios de comunicación generalmente se han mantenido en silencio, y familias no han actuado para proteger a sus hijos de ser infectados por este odio.
Como comprobado por la elección histórica de este año, la gran mayoría de Americanos han derrotado las barreras artificiales del racismo y hemos entrado a una nueva era. Después de más de un siglo de luchas para libertad y democracia independientemente de raza, Americanos han suprimido la enfermedad del odio racial, sin embargo, un virus continúa con algunas personas, y no debemos de permitir que se multiplique. Hay algunos quienes creen que el racismo y xenofobia siempre existirán, pero no debemos de permitir que exista en nuestro país, en nuestras instituciones democráticas, en nuestras escuelas, ni en nuestros hogares. Tenemos que ser más vigilantes que nunca, y derrotarlo donde lo veamos.
MALDEF hace una llamada a nuestros representantes nacionales, líderes de fe, educadores, y padres, que se enfrenten y tomen acción inmediata contra esta ola nacional de odio. De nuevo hacemos una llamada al Congreso y al próximo Presidente a que desarrollen legislación comprensiva para reparar nuestro sistema de inmigración antiguo, establecer prioridades nacionales de inmigración, incluyendo integración comunitaria, que sirva los intereses de la nación, permitir a nuevos miembros a trabajar con estatus legal y con protecciones contra la explotación, y que además proteja a las comunidades de esta nación. Autoridades locales y federales deben de enjuiciar crímenes motivados por el odio con todo el peso de la ley. Los administradores locales y las personalidades de los medios de comunicación deben responsabilizarse por las consecuencias de su retórica extrema y deben propagar mensajes de respeto y tolerancia. Aún más importante, convocamos a todos los estadounidenses á unirse contra ésta ola de odio y derrotar el odio y la violencia. Esto es inaceptable y debe cesar ahora.”
Civil Rights Groups Condemn Recent Rash of Hate Crimes
Fatal Beating of Long Island Latino Man Should be a “Wake Up Call for America”
November 24, 2008
WASHINGTON, DC — The brutal murder of Marcelo Lucero, a Suffolk County, Long Island man of Ecuadoran descent, brought seven national civil rights organizations together today to denounce the recent wave of brutal hate crimes against communities of color.
Representatives from the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the National Urban League, the NAACP and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) decried the recent spike in hate crimes both during and after the election.
“In the wake of an election that sends a message to the world about freedom, it seems incongruous to raise the specter of hate in America,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR. “Hate did not win the election, but it has certainly reared its head in local communities across the country.”
“It is deeply disturbing to see this surge in hate crimes at a time when we should be celebrating coming together as a country and looking to the future,” said Karen Narasaki, President and Executive Director of AAJC. “Encouraged as we are to see many communities hopeful that we are headed towards an age of greater understanding, we cannot ignore the wave of hate crimes that has occurred in the wake of this historic election.”
The group cited FBI statistics that show hate crimes against Latinos and Asian Americans rising steadily over the past four years and a Southern Poverty Law Center report that details hundreds of incidents of hate crimes, vandalism, and threats committed since Election Day. This includes the election-night assault of Alie Kamara on Staten Island by two teenagers who shouted racial epithets and “Obama!” as they beat him.
“We believe that the Justice Department has to become more aggressive in prosecuting hate crimes,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League, one of the nation’s historic civil rights organizations. “As a country, we’ve come a long way, but there is still more change needed.”
“At a time when we as a nation are celebrating our demonstrated diversity as millions of Americans of every race, color, ethnicity, economic status, religion, gender, and place of national origin went to the polls in record numbers to vote for and elect Barack Obama president of the United States, there are unfortunately those who are still living in the past filled hatred, fear and division,” said Hilary Shelton, Director NAACP Washington Bureau.
“Hate crimes such as these must be investigated and prosecuted fully at the local and federal levels,” stated John Trasviña, MALDEF President and General Counsel.
The civil rights groups faulted a “climate of hate” surrounding the immigration debate of recent years and the national election which has been fostered over the airwaves and echoed in political discourse.
“For two years we have urged politicians and members of the media to show some restraint in perpetuating the damaging rhetoric that demonizes our communities,” said Murguía. “Suffolk County mirrors the experience of many communities where hate, fostered on a national scale, has found a new home.”
“Certainly, President-elect Obama’s election speaks volumes about how far we’ve come as a nation; but, make no mistake, it signifies hope, not a final victory over prejudice and racial hostility, ” said Wade Henderson, President of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. “Certainly, in a nation of over 300 million people, there will always be a fearful few who can only find self-worth when they disparage and denigrate some group of people they see as different from themselves. We can’t legislate the heart and mind, but we can ensure that this segment is prevented from turning thought into action.”
“Words have consequences, and hateful words have hateful consequences. Mr. Lucero’s death is a direct consequence of the anger and hate spurred on by media outlets that mischaracterize all Latinos and the institutions that serve them as a threat to our country,” said Murguía.
“There is a direct connection between the tenor of the political debate and the daily lives of immigrants in our communities. It is no accident that, as the immigration debate has demonized immigrants as “invaders” who poison our communities with disease and criminality, haters have taken matters into their own hands and hate crimes against Latinos are on the rise for the fourth consecutive,” said Michael Lieberman, Washington Counsel, Anti-Defamation League.
These seven organizations are committed to working together to monitor incidents of hate crimes and hate rhetoric, to urge Congress to pass the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act and the media to cease resorting to bias and bigotry, and to increase tolerance and understanding among all communities.
To learn more about the code words of hate and what your community can do to combat hate speech, visit www.WeCanStopTheHate.org.
Hate Crimes Against Latinos At New Record Levels
FBI data document continued disturbing and violent trend
October 28, 2008
WASHINGTON, DC — The annual Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Hate Crimes Statistics Report released yesterday documents the continued rise of crimes that police report are motivated by bias against Hispanics. In 2007, local police reported to the FBI that there were 830 victims of anti-Hispanic crimes in 595 incidents around the nation. Both of these numbers represent increases over the previous year and surpass previous highs dating back to when annual reports were first mandated by the Hate Crimes Statistics Act.
According to the report, in 2007, Hispanics comprised 61.7 percent of victims of crimes motivated by a bias toward the victims’ ethnicity or national origin. In 2004, the comparable figure was 51.5 percent. Since 2003, the number of both victims of anti-Hispanic crimes and incidents increased by nearly 40 percent.
Earlier this year, Luis Ramirez, a Mexican immigrant who was engaged to be married to the U.S. citizen mother of his two small children, was beaten to death by a group of white teenagers in Shenandoah, PA. According to witnesses and local reports, he was accosted on the evening of July 12 and suffered fatal blows to the head and other parts of the body while the perpetrators shouted racial and ethnic epithets. MALDEF successfully requested the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the killing as a hate crime and the local District Attorney has filed murder and ethnic intimidation charges in the slaying. The trial will take place in the coming months.
“Hispanics are under assault in America’s neighborhoods,” stated MALDEF President and General Counsel John Trasviña. “Heightened anti-immigrant sentiment fueled by cable and radio talk show hosts, coupled with local police efforts to enforce federal immigration law, leaves members of our communities more in danger with less protection than ever before. The FBI report makes the enactment of comprehensive immigration reform more critical to our community’s safety and the nation’s future. It must be a priority for the next President and Congress.”
The report goes on to demonstrate the steady growth of anti-Hispanic hate crimes after 2003.
2007: 595 anti-Hispanic crimes against 830 victims
2006: 576 anti-Hispanic crimes against 819 victims
2005: 522 anti-Hispanic crimes against 722 victims
2004: 475 anti-Hispanic crimes against 646 victims
2003: 426 anti-Hispanic crimes against 595 victims
2002: 480 anti-Hispanic crimes against 639 victims
MALDEF Represents Fiancée of Luis Ramirez at Preliminary Hearing; Emotional Testimony Results in Court Ruling Directing Defendants to Stand Trial
Following is the main text of this month’s newsletter.
AUGUST 26, 2008 — Last Monday, the three defendants charged with the hate crime against Luis Ramirez that resulted in his death last month in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania were ordered to stand trial as adults for their actions in a drunken, epithet-fueled attack that left the Mexican immigrant unconscious, convulsing and foaming at the mouth.
The ruling ensures that two of the defendants will be tried on charges of third-degree murder and ethnic intimidation for their roles in the attack, which caused Ramirez’s death two days later. A third defendant will be tried on counts of aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation and other charges.
During the preliminary hearing, witness testimony revealed the racial nature of the crime. A friend of the assailants who was present during the beating, but reportedly took no part in it, testified that the fight began when one of the defendants shouted ethnic slurs at Ramirez. A retired Philadelphia police officer testified that she heard one of the defendants yell “Tell your [expletive] Mexican friends to get the [expletive] out of Shenandoah or you’ll be [expletive] laying next to him.” The defendant’s comments were directed at Ramirez’s friends who came to his aid after receiving a distress call from him on a cell phone during the beating. Ramirez’s fiancée Crystal Dillman, wept as she described racing to the scene and coming upon the body of Ramirez convulsing and foaming at the mouth. She said that prior to the attack, Ramirez was frequently called race-based derogatory names and told to go back to Mexico.
After MALDEF’s letter to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) opened a hate crime investigation, and DOJ Community Relations Service representatives were sent to Shenandoah to ease racial tensions. MALDEF also called on the local prosecutor to charge the defendants with hate crimes, despite local officials’ initial denials that race played a role in the attack. Soon thereafter, the local prosecutor filed ethnic intimidation charges, among others.
Following the death of Luis Ramirez, MALDEF attorneys organized a peaceful candlelight vigil in his honor and held a national press conference to highlight the severity of the case, and to speak out against anti-immigrant sentiment, ordinances and hate crimes. MALDEF attorneys were back in Shenandoah last week for the preliminary hearing, and represented Ramirez’s fiancée as she testified in court. MALDEF attorneys are presently engaged with local officials and community groups to improve race relations. As the Shenandoah school year starts this week, MALDEF has called on school officials to assure Latino parents that schools will be safe environments and that ethnic harassment will not be tolerated.
MALDEF President and General Counsel John Trasviña said that the case reveals a disturbing and widespread attitude towards immigrants. “Hate crimes against Hispanics have skyrocketed in recent years. Like the horrific deaths of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, this tragic, senseless crime should be a wake-up call for all Americans,” he said.
“We must squarely address this problem by taking on those who irresponsibly spew anti-immigrant rhetoric,” said Gladys Limón, MALDEF Staff Attorney. “We must work together to drown out hate in the media. You can start by visiting our Truth In Immigration website.”
MALDEF continues to closely monitor the case and to represent Luis Ramirez’s family as the criminal justice process proceeds.
Murder of Luis Ramirez Requires National Action
Following is the main text of this month’s newsletter.
MALDEF assists family and community
AUGUST 8, 2008 — On July 12, Luis Ramirez, a 25-year-old Mexican immigrant residing in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, was beaten and stomped to death. Witnesses overheard anti-Mexican and ethnic epithets shouted by his assailants. This violent hate crime is a tragic example of the growing and virulent anti-immigrant sentiment heard and felt around the nation. We must put a stop to it.
In the days following his murder, MALDEF called upon U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, the United States Attorney’s Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct a full and fair federal investigation, and to bring appropriate criminal charges against those responsible. MALDEF also called for the dispatch of representatives from the Department of Justice Community Relations Service to quell community tensions. The Department of Justice subsequently opened a federal civil rights investigation and dispatched CRS representatives to Shenandoah. MALDEF organized a vigil and press conference in memory of Luis Ramirez together with local community members, and focused national attention on the significance of this hate crime specifically, and those against Latinos generally. MALDEF provided much needed legal support to Luis Ramirez’s fiancé and their children in the aftermath of this tragedy.
While local officials initially attempted to minimize the ethnic aspects of the murder, the county district attorney filed murder and ethnic intimidation charges against three local teenagers. Charging documents and eyewitness accounts indicate that Luis Ramirez suffered racial slurs as the perpetrators punched and kicked his body and head causing him to foam at the mouth, to sustain two skull fractures, and ultimately, to die. The death of Luis Ramirez has repercussions beyond his family and community. The FBI Hate Crimes Statistics Report documents that hate crimes against Latinos have increased by 35% over the past several years. We must prevent these crimes from happening and demand prosecution and punishment to the full extent of the law when they do.
MALDEF will continue to assist Luis Ramirez’s family and Latinos in the Shenandoah community as the criminal case goes forward. Luis Ramirez’s death elevates the importance of strong hate crimes laws and enforcement and exposes the depth of hostilities immigrants face all too often.
MALDEF has worked this year on the recent introduction of federal legislation to improve the integration of immigrants into cities, towns and communities across the country. S.3334/H.R.6617, introduced by Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Representative Mike Honda (D-CA), Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Representative Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) will authorize the creation of immigrant integration councils bringing together local leaders from labor, business, education, faith, ethnic and other walks of life to promote education, job training, civic engagement and broader interaction of immigrants and the wider community. Tough prosecution of hate crimes and avenues to empower immigrants in their new communities can make a difference.
MALDEF will represent the family of Luis Ramirez and will do all that we can to ensure that justice is done. We call on you to help ensure the safety and advancement of immigrants in your own city or town. Call your Senator and Member of Congress today and ask them to cosponsor S.3334/H.R.6617. Send the message that the demonization of Latinos and immigrants must desist, our civil rights must be protected, and our contributions to the community must be respected.