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November 14th, 2008


by Joelle Panisch

Marcello Lucero.

Thanks to Michael O’Neill for the heads up.

The November 8th murder and alleged hate crime of 37 year-old Ecuadorian Marcello Lucero in Patchogue, LI, has garnered local and national review of Suffolk County policies and practices, especially regarding immigration. Allegations of the intentional denial of hate crimes and of legislation that some believe is knowingly designed with loopholes to allow for immigrant harassment and to veil racially motivated crimes has stemmed suppositions of impropriety among Suffolk County legislature and County Executive, Steve Levy.

Overt blame is hard to prove but Levy, in his second term, has long been scrutinized for stewing a climate of hate and potential attacks. In anticipation of such criticisms Levy’s administration issued a statement countering these claims. “There are hatemongers everywhere, and to associate events of this past weekend with this administration is not just false and unfair, it is an injustice.”

Many local residents disagree, alleging that responsibility, at least in part, belongs to Levy’s administration. According to Suffolk County resident Michael O’Neill the regular use of demonizing language such as “illegals,” have made notable contributions to the unfair categorization of many immigrants and the prejudices that may result. “It is in this climate that the atmosphere turns noxious,” writes O’Neill in an email, “where all the execrable racist toxins are breathed in by the unstable, the hapless and marginalized.”

Whether or not allegations against Levy are warranted, he has begun the politico game of appeasement. Tuesday he announced plans for programs to promote tolerance in schools and communities. However, the sincerity of the propositions have and will be questioned amongst the caucus, in which 6.6% of the registered voters have Spanish surnames according to Newsday.

In addition, statements made by Democratic Assemblymember Phil Ramos, whose re-election was opposed by Levy, may have further thwarted the ‘damage control’ campaign. In a carefully worded statement Roth said, “As you know, there’s a number of elected officials who thrive on the controversy of the immigration issue. I will not engage in pointing fingers at any individual, but…any elected official who has engaged in anti-immigration rhetoric and divisive policies has created a climate-and that climate has been a contributing factor to this incident.”

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