Anti-Immigrant Hate Crimes: Nativist Murders Suggest Effect of Rhetoric

[Marcelo] Lucero's murder caused many people to suggest that the Long Island county's recent acrimonious debates over local immigration laws and Latino day laborers had created a climate that fostered the violence. The killing followed FBI reports of a nationwide 40% rise in anti-Latino hate crime violence between 2003 and 2007, a period marked by ugly rhetoric from hundreds of nativist groups and politicians. Jack Levin, a hate crime expert at Northeastern University, said such demonizing speech often leads to hate crimes.

"Racist rhetoric and dehumanizing images inspire violence," Levin told the Intelligence Report.

County Executive Steve Levy came under particularly concentrated fire after he said that if Lucero had been killed in adjacent Nassau County, "it would be a one-day story." Since taking office in 2004, Levy had, among other measures aimed at immigrants, signed a measure to bar undocumented workers from being hired by county contractors and county licensees, and he clashed often with Long Island pro-immigrant activists.

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