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Report: Latino Immigrants in Suffolk County, N.Y Living in a Climate of Fear

Report details violent attacks, harassment and abuse driven by a virulent anti-immigrant climate, that has been fostered by community leaders and law enforcement practices

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Although Suffolk County is not unique — many communities across the United States are undergoing similar racial conflicts and rapid demographic changes — there are several concrete measures county officials could take to remedy what has been a worsening problem there for a decade:

  • First, local politicians should halt their angry demagoguery on the issue of immigration. There is abundant evidence that Suffolk County officials have contributed substantially to an atmosphere conducive to racial violence.
  • Second, the county and state legislatures should mandate that crime victims and witnesses not be asked their immigration status during criminal investigations. As long as they are, immigrants will be unwilling to come out of the shadows to report crimes against themselves and others.
  • Third, law enforcement officials should train officers to ensure that they take seriously cases of hate-motivated crime. Until they do, Latino residents will continue to distrust law enforcement officials and avoid cooperation.
  • Fourth, the county should maintain accurate hate crime statistics that are readily available to the public. Doing so will help guide county leaders and residents in confronting the problem of hate-motivated violence.
  • Fifth, the county should promote educational programs in the public schools to encourage respect for diversity and opposition to hatred. In the end, educating the next generation is the only permanent antidote to hate.

If these measures are taken to combat an increasingly volatile situation, it's likely that angry passions in Suffolk can be cooled and a rational debate on immigration and its consequences begun. The alternative is that the county continues to foster a dangerous growth of violent racial intolerance and nativism — a climate of fear.

Read the full report and accompanying articles at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Mark Potok is the editor of the Southern Poverty Law Center 's Intelligence Report .

 
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