Presidential candidate Donald Trump demonstrated his brand of blatant racism when he accepted an invitation by local Republicans to speak in the town of Patchogue, NY, last week at a Republican fundraiser just blocks from where Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero was murdered in 2008.
The story of Lucero’s murder was highlighted in 2010 in Hunting Season: Immigration and Murder in an All American Town by former NY Times Reporter and Pulitzer Prize Winner Mirta Ojito. Lucero was walking home at night when a group of teenage boys jumped him in a game they called “beaner-hopping.” They had been prowling the streets of Patchogue for weeks looking for Hispanic males to beat and rob.
Trump’s racist rhetoric mirrors the rhetoric used by local politicians who were in office in Suffolk County at the time of Lucero’s murder. As the book illustrates, the boys felt empowered to attack voiceless Hispanics after hearing anti-immigrant talk in local politics and witnessing the dismissal of immigrant fears by the Suffolk County Police Department, which was under investigation by the Justice Department at the time the book was being written.
As Ojito noted in her book, the teenagers, who were tried under newly implemented federal hate crime laws, were acting in ways they thought to be acceptable because of examples set by local political leaders, namely then Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, who refused to consider a hiring hall to meet employment concerns for newly arriving Hispanic immigrants in the communities of Suffolk County.
When the abduction and beating of two immigrants, and later a fire bombing of an immigrant family’s home in nearby Farmingville occurred, Levy was quick to blame the feds for failure to manage the immigrant “problem.” Rather than working with immigrant supporters to find a way forward, Levy and Republican politicians further belittled immigrants and blamed the federal government, thus illustrating to their supporters that racism was an acceptable means of reaction to immigrant issues.
Despite Presidential Candidate Trump’s targeting of Hispanics and despite immigrant sensitivity issues in Patchogue, Suffolk County Republican Party Chair John Jay LaValle, a onetime supporter of Levy, endorsed Trump for President, and invited him to Patchogue for a fundraising event which, intentionally or not, has further divided the community.
While some might call this an insensitive and thoughtless move on the part of LaValle and his party, it is obvious that Trump has sought any kind of news coverage he can get—positive or negative. Holding the event at a location within walking distance from the sight of Lucero’s murder was clearly no accident, although LaValle has stated the decision was innocent. Indeed, the decision garnered much media coverage for Trump and the Suffolk County Republican Party for three days before the event, and the day after the event. Newsday and National Public Radio each had multiple segments about Trump’s visit.
The NY Times offered an editorial blasting the decision for Trump to attend the fundraiser, and employed a quote from Lucero’s brother Joselo Lucero, who said in 2010 at the time the book was being written that it was time to “end hunting season.” That quote from Joselo was the impetus for the book’s title.
It is shocking and disappointing that eight years have passed since the Lucero murder, and anti-immigrant rhetoric has been ratcheted up even further thanks to Trump, who seeks to add to the Republican agenda his racist voice by calling Mexican immigrants “criminals, rapists and killers.” Trump’s hate speech has done nothing to move the country in a direction of resolving the problems faced by immigration. He has stirred anger and incited even more racist behavior on the part of people who support a presidential candidate who encourages them to target specific groups based on race and ethnicity (namely Hispanics) and religion (namely Muslims).
Trump and others who are angry about immigration issues and are targeting immigrant groups should delve more deeply into the root causes of immigration. They should work to gain an understanding of the reasons immigrants seek refuge in the United States. They should attempt to better understand the economic issues facing our communities and how immigrants can fill job roles that citizens aren’t filling. They should learn of the great part Hispanic immigrants have played in the building of this country. Finally, and most importantly, these vitriol-spewing haters should learn to talk about immigration in meaningful and helpful ways rather than taking the easy way out by blaming immigrants and targeting them with hate speech.
About the Author
Molly Altizer is an associate professor of English and journalism at Suffolk County Community College. She holds a Gold Key from Columbia Scholastic Press Association for excellence in journalism education, and has worked as a general assignments reporter for the Long Island Advance. Her former students have held positions at the Washington Post, the New York Times, Univision, and People Magazine. She has served as a judge for news writing competitions for the New York Times, The Women’s Press Federation, the Birmingham News, the Alabama Scholastic Press Association, and The University Interscholastic League of Texas.