Patchogue, New York, September 10, 2009
Statement by Sonia Spar (as prepared)
ADL Latino Relations Analyst
Good evening, my name is Sonia Spar, Latino Relations Analyst for the Anti-Defamation League. For almost 100 years, ADL has been fighting all forms of hate and bigotry. ADL is a leading resource in the fight against hate crimes. Tonight, in the town where Marcelo Lucero was tragically murdered, we stand in solidarity with the victimized immigrants of Suffolk County to decry the violence directed at them in recent months.
Immigration, like every political issue, has supporters and opponents, but we believe there is a direct connection between the tone of this debate and the daily lives of immigrants across the country, and Suffolk County is no exception. ADL has documented a growing atmosphere of bigotry and xenophobia and a disturbing increase in the number of violent assaults against Hispanics, legal, and undocumented immigrants – and those perceived to be immigrants.
For the fourth consecutive year, the FBI has recorded an increase in hate crimes directed against Latinos. In Suffolk County last year, more than 60 bias incidents were reported to law enforcement. Sadly, the majority of offenders in New York State were under the age of 25 and one in every five was reported to be 15 or younger. When a perpetrator targets a victim because of personal and immutable characteristics, the effect is to intimidate an entire community. Victims of hate crimes experience twice as many injuries and four times more trips to the hospital, and tragically some are killed. These crimes demand priority attention because of their special impact.
As you consider next steps for Suffolk County, we recommend three important action steps that experience has proven to be effective.
- Words have consequences. We urge the leaders of this community to set the tone by speaking out against virulent anti-immigrant and anti-Latino rhetoric.
- Local law enforcement must forge relationships with immigrant communities. Victims, witnesses, and community members need to feel safe in reporting crimes to their local police. This is a tough issue, and where our relationships can help build a bridge, we are ready to work with you.
- There is a clear need for anti-bias hate crime prevention, education and outreach initiatives for law enforcement, civic leaders, community members, and most especially for Suffolk County’s youngest residents. ADL is ready to work alongside Suffolk county educators and parents to ensure that our kids have the tools and knowledge to fight hate.
The discrimination, bigotry, and hate violence experienced by immigrants in Suffolk County impedes the ability of good people to live in dignity and equality. The task of fighting it cannot fall to its victims alone. All of us have a role to play in making Suffolk a better and safer place to live for everyone. We look forward to working with this Task Force and the community to deter and counteract hate.