Long Island (NY) Latino and immigrant rights advocates have been battling County Executive Steve Levy and his allies on the Suffolk County Legislature as they push an endless stream of legislation to designed to rid the county of its Latino Day Laborers--some portion of which are undocumented.
The pols' staunchest support comes from a few unions concerned with labor competition, and a dozen or so rabidly anti-Latino residents.
(BTW: Suffolk County has some 200,000 Latino residents.)
While Levy and legislators are careful to preface their comments in favor of anti-Day Laborer legislation by insisting the intent is not anti-Latino/anti-immigrant, nativist residents at public hearings feel no need to be politically correct. It's clear that these people are animated by deep hostility towards the newcomers from South of the Border--illegal or not. To these bigots, Latinos are foreigners, interlopers, and we're trespassing on their Long Island.
The weapon of choice for the racists is the blunt force of government sanctions against Latinos--especially those most visible and vulnerable: the day laborers.
The toxic environment fomented by the nativists and their legislative partners is deeply disturbing to area Latino, immigrant and progressive communities. The fear is that racists thugs--emboldened by an acquiescent political establishment--will escalate from rhetoric to violence.
Already there has been a rash of anti-immigrant and anti-Latino crimes. For example, this spring a motorist jumped the curb and plowed into a group of day laborers and then fled. Clearly, a hate crime -- although the county police dismissed it as an accident. Immigrant women have been targeted for sexual assaults. Day laborers are repeatedly taunted, spat upon, beaten and robbed.
And a week or so ago, racists spray painted their ugly demands on a wall in Bayshore. The message was hateful and despicable, but the response of the authorities was equally disturbing. The local newspaper reported that they authorities were unsure if the perpetrators were racially motivated. I kid you not!
To his credit, Steve Levy immediately condemned the racist act. Actually, he was on the scene before anyone else. (Hmmm)
Then again, maybe Levy is beginning to understand that the political dead end that is nativism. There can't be much opportunity for a nativist Dem pol in a very Dem state, right? If he is starting to 'get it', may be he will also 'get it' that his obession with defeating Suffolk County's sole Latino state representative and immigrant advocate -- Assemblyman Phil Ramos--is also dead wrong.