11/18/08

Immigrant Advocates to Suffolk County Legislature: Change Your Tone

As the nation -- and, indeed, the world -- has begun to understand, immigrants in Suffolk County have been targets of an ugly nativist war. A multi-front war that's included:

-a firebombing
-escalating threats and assaults
-racial profiling
-a flurry of anti-immigrant codes
-forced separations
-detentions
-deportations
-attempted murder
-and most recently, the slaying of Marcelo Lucero for being Latino.
In their continued fight on behalf of immigrants, civil and human rights advocates went to the Suffolk County Legislature's 1st public session post the killing. Their demands were for Suffolk to cease its politics of scapegoating Latino immigrants, and instead, take a stand against hate.

While too soon to gauge the impact of recent developments (including the Marcelo killing, discovery of a rash of other bias crimes, a Steve Levy apology of sorts, and global condemnation), the stoic expressions of the nativist pandering caucus was not reassuring.

Hope I'm wrong. After all, nativism is a political loser when exposed to the full light of day.

Nonetheless, the courageous band of advocates stood tall as they continued a tradition of speaking truth to power. As they have so often these last few very troubling years, they spoke eloquently and passionately on behalf of the Suffolk's hardworking, yet much maligned, immigrant workers.

- Patrick Young of the Central American Resource Center raked the county administration for its ludicrous propaganda that bias crimes against Latinos are down 93% in the past four years.

- Catherine Carballerri and Sonia Palacio-Grottola, of the National Association of Puerto Rican & Hispanic Social Workers, also questioned Suffolk's bias crime data when their profession sees a spike. They also warned about the trauma immigrant children are suffering.

- Lisa Tarrant Votino of Long Island Wins offered to partner with the legislature in formulating a more constructive approach to immigrants. She also charged that there's a difference between debating immigration policy and dehumanizing a whole people.

- Michael O'Neil of the East Hampton Anti-Bias Task Force admonished the legislature for ignoring the pleas, recommendations and warnings of Latino and immigrant leaders. He recommended that the County engage the leaders of Latino and immigrant residents when formulating proposals affecting their communities.

- Dr. Luis Valenzuela of the LI Immigrant Alliance called on the Legislature to stop its unwise intrusion into immigration policy, and instead, support the passage of national comprehensive immigration reform. He said that Suffolk could and should become a national model for suburban diversity and civility.

- Charlotte Koons and Andrea Callan, of the Suffolk chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, challenged Suffolk to 'legislate and educate the hate away.'

Related: Pleas to heal community directed at Suffolk legislators
Latino community asks legislature to listen. Just listen!

Top photo: (L-R) Lisa Tarrant Votino, Andrea Callan, Charlotte Koons, Dr. Luis Valenzuela, Michael O'Neil
Bottom photo: Patrick Young speaking to a reporter
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