As a Latina but most of all an Ecuadorean American, Marcelo Lucero will always share a part of my identity. On November 8, 2008, this Ecuadorian immigrant was beaten and stabbed to his death by seven teenagers in Patchogue, Long Island. As Mr. Lucero was walking to a friend’s house, these teenagers who were “Beaner-Hopping” confused him as a Mexican, beat him and with a stab in the chest, killed him. Regardless of the assumption made by Suffolk County’s Executive Steve Levy, his death was not a “One Day Story”. Instead it has opened a Pandora’s Box which can no longer be ignored.
Post World War II, Long Island attracted manufacturing jobs. But in the ‘90’s the decrease of the industry made room for private sector jobs. As the industry expanded so did residents’ incomes and so did their need for low-wage labor. Service industries within restaurants, landscaping, construction and domestic work aided Long Island’s economy but enforced an informal labor market consisting of predominantly Latino immigrants.
Latinos compose 12% of the Long Island population, pronouncing itself the largest minority. Most of them low-wage workers, endure long hours, unsafe working conditions, low wages and no job security. Individuals such as Marcelo Lucero were a part of this community. Latino immigrants have forged an essential role within Suffolk County, but their “status” marginalizes them from the rest of society thus conceding to a sense of vulnerability. The lack of proper immigration reform has permitted hate crimes and exploitative practices towards our community. And has forcibly silenced many.
This “silence” is no conundrum. Their “illegal” status silences them out of fear. Fear not only of the people around them but of politicians. Politicians who have and are adding fuel to the fire. Politicians who stereotype and avidly express anti-immigrant sentiment and support for legislation promoting such, teach their followers the same. The only difference is that through ignorance; hate, xenophobia, racism or whatever one chooses to call it will reflect through violence. And if politicians are against the community, then “silence” is the best option. But this should not be their, our only choice or even a choice at all.
The term “illegal” should not be used as a way of setting a community aside and placing them in the shadows of silence. The lack of legality in this country should not dehumanize them. Everyone is entitled to the right to life. Regardless of color, race, sex, gender, status…we are all human beings and have a place in this world. Marcelo Lucero had one as well as many of the Marcelo Luceros in Suffolk County, Long Island, New York State…the United States. We all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.