According to an article published in Newsday.com, two of the defendants in the Marcelo Lucero case-which we've covered here, here, here, here, here, and here-last week made their court appearances in the murder of Mr. Lucero. The five other defendants in the case, held without bail or unable to post bail, did not appear. The case was adjourned until April 1, 2009.
Although the defendants reportedly told police that targeting Latinos was regular "sport" they played, all seven teens pled "not guilty" to the hate crime charges and all other charges related to the 11/08/08 stabbing death of Marcelo Lucero. The teens are also being charged with several other attacks, which occurred as long as one year before the death of Marcelo Lucero. It has come to light that in the part of town where Mr. Lucero was murdered, Suffolk County, New York, harassing Latinos was regular recreation for local teens. One of the teens charged said, "I don't go out doing this very often, maybe once a week." Doubts remain about whether these seven teens have been the only ones making a sport of harassment and abuse in Suffolk County.
Mr. Lucero's mother, Rosario Lucero, who flew to New York from Ecuador with her daughter for the trial, was astounded by the ages of the plaintiffs. "They're so young-they're babies," she said. Maria Elena Salinas, co-anchor of Univision, a Spanish-language broadcast network, also spoke to this case last week in her op-ed, "Tone of Immigration Debate Promotes Hatred." She writes, "In New York's Suffolk County, a group of teenagers seems to have picked up a morbid new hobby. It's no longer, 'Hey, why don't we go hang out on a street corner?' or even 'Let's go break into cars.' What the seven young boys, 16 and 17 years of age, were doing as a hobby was going out and 'beating up Mexicans.'"
"Lucero's murder was a blow to his family in Ecuador and in New York, as well as to his friends and neighbors, who describe him as a quiet and kind man, always looking for ways to help others. But his death helped to uncover a gruesome pattern of behavior by the youths. It turns out Lucero was just the latest victim of what had turned into a regular and violent pastime: hunting down Hispanics to attack them."
"It shouldn't be complicated to figure out why hate crimes have risen as much as they have in Suffolk County, or any other county in the United States. There is a clear pattern here. When you have politicians and media commentators constantly accusing immigrants of taking jobs away from Americans, of littering our streets, of spreading disease, of threatening our culture, and categorizing them as criminals, someone is bound to think he or she has the liberty to eliminate them without any consequences."
NCLR's President and CEO Janet Murguía has also expressed concern over the ages of the alleged attackers in the murder of Lucero. "That hate has trickled down to a new generation is very disturbing," she said. Murguía blames the growing climate of hate surrounding the immigration debate as part of the cause. "Words have consequences. And hateful words have hateful consequences. For too long, hate groups and hate speech have dominated the national debate on immigrants, mischaracterizing all Latinos and the institutions that serve them in the process. Lives are literally in the balance."