12/23/08

U.S. Justice Meets LatinoJustice re: Suffolk County Injustice

Investigators from the U.S. Justice Department met in New York with LatinoJustice regarding allegations of anti-Latino bias in Suffolk County.

LatinoJustice's complaint charges Suffolk County government officials with violating the equal protection clause in its treatment of Latino residents; stirring up anti-Latino resentment, indulging bigots and promoting hate speech through its anti-Latino immigrant proposals -- culminating in the hate killing of Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue.

While the DOJ has not yet launched a formal investigation, their presence last week in New York is reassuring.

As for the response from Suffolk officials, the usually ultra chatty Steve Levy has gone silent--as have his co-conspirators in the legislature. However, the county police are said to welcome any investigation--although spokesman Tim Motz claims that Suffolk's "hate crime statistics are essentially the same" as in other jurisdictions.

In addition to insulting the intelligence of county residents, the Long Island Latino community, the memory of Marcelo Lucero, as well as most U.S. counties without official campaigns against Latino immigrants, Mr. Motz misses an essential point: that the county's numbers are totally out-of-whack with reality -- reflecting the possibility of a systemic failure to protect Latinos residents.

Recommendation for Mr. Motz: Read the LatinoJustice complaint to learn about what's really happening in Suffolk County.

Moreover, the concern is not that hate crimes only happen in Suffolk County. No one is saying that. The concern for Latinos in Suffolk is that authorities are actively fomenting anti-Latino hostility. And it's not just the county. DOJ should also look at the embedded biases in the code enforcement, provision of services, staffing, and policing practices of a number of towns and villages--often in coordination with the county.

So, Mr. Motz and Mr. Levy should also welcome more 'sanctuary' sessions of the sort held at the church in Patchogue in which residents can step forward and tell the truth without fear, right? At least 20 hate victims came forward in Patchogue. How many more are out there that the bright lights of Suffolk County don't know about?

And while they're at it, perhaps DOJ should look closely at the embedded practices and attitudes which systematically undermine the rights of racial "minorities". For example, why are at-large election districts which ensure African American and Latino political under representation allowed? Why are racially segregated and unequal public schools condoned? How is it that Long Island manages to remain one of the most segregated places in the country even though people of color are a significant portion of the overall population?
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