02/04/2009 11:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Another Hate Crime?

On January 21, 2009, a Columbian man, Wilter Sanchez, was brutally attacked in North Plainfield, New Jersey by five men. According to Sanchez, the men called him a "Hispanic son of a bitch" and tried to beat him to death. Sanchez has undergone surgery at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital to rebuild his fractured cheekbones, forehead, nose, and jaw and to treat contusions in his skull. Doctors say that Sanchez is lucky to have survived the attack. 

Sanchez and his cousin, Fernando Quincha, were walking toward a restaurant when a car filled with young men stopped near them. The men began to get out of the car. Fearing an attack, Sanchez and his cousin started running in different directions, but before getting too far, Sanchez fell. Five men proceeded to kick him in the face and shout racial slurs.

Somerset County has arrested five suspects on theft charges. As of this writing, they have not been charged with assault.

The assault is a possible hate crime.

The Colombian consul in New York, Francisco Noguera-Rocha, has condemned the "brutal attack" and has asked the New York Coalition of Latin American Councils to speak out against this type of aggression toward the Latino community.

Sanchez's case is not an isolated incident. In December 2008, José Sucuzhañay was beaten to death in Brooklyn. One month earlier, Marcelo Lucero was brutally murdered in Long Island. Both have been labeled hate crimes.

After Lucero's death, more than twenty Latinos came forward to report similar attacks on their person, and the Department of Justice has begun an investigation as a result of these reports.

The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) has raised concerns that such acts of violence are in part due to the vitriolic rhetoric that surrounds local immigration law enforcement. When public officials echo the words of hate groups and demonize our community as a threat, they create a climate of hate that empowers private citizens to take matters into their own hands.

Sanchez's attack is not the first, but let's work together to make sure that it is the last. 

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