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.”
For all media inquiries, please contact Laura Rodriguez.