Local Heroes: Sue Hagedorn


Sue Hagedorn has spent four years documenting, editing, and promoting her new film on the killing of Marcelo Lucero, “Deputized.” This powerful documentary takes you inside a teenagers’ world in which messages from parents, teachers, and politicians “deputize” seven young men to attack Latino immigrants.

During the five years before the Lucero killing, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy exploited voters’ fears of newly arrived immigrants to cultivate hatred against Latinos. Police collusion in the marginalization of immigrants meant that repeated attacks on immigrants went uninvestigated. Sue’s film lets the victims of this climate of fear speak for the first time about what it was like to be on the receiving end of terror.

The film also walks the halls of the segregated school where the attackers learned to view immigrants as contemptible “beaners” and to the barber shop where they shared their views. It takes you into the home of Jeff Conroy, who, at the age of 17, took the life of a man he had never met before. Conroy himself speaks from prison, although it is difficult to discern what he has learned from the tragedy.

Most remarkably, Deputized lets Patchogue’s immigrants speak for themselves. Angel Loja, Marcelo Lucero’s companion on the night he was stabbed, talks about the terror of that horrible night, but he also describes his life with his friend. Sue takes us into Mr. Loja’s kitchen where we hear him talking to his mother about the most ordinary of immigrant issues, like the difficulties of finding a job.

We also visit Marcelo Lucero’s hometown in Ecuador where we hear from the children whose fathers left their families to come to Long Island to work difficult jobs among people who scorn them. We watch Marcelo’s funeral and Sue makes sure we see that his family’s love for him is something that middle-class white Long Islanders cannot ignore. His mother’s grief is tragically illuminating for those who can’t see the humanity of the immigrants they scorn.

The interviews with Marcelo Lucero’s brother, Joselo, paint the best portraits we have of the dead man whom few of us knew.

Sue Hagedorn’s film is a time capsule of Suffolk race relations during the Levy era, but it is even more so a look at the manufacture of hatred. CARECEN has shown the film in several locations throughout Long Island and our staff has led discussions after showings. The documentary is remarkable for its ability to set off wide ranging discussions on issues too many of us have been silent about.

I’ll be very happy to present Sue with an award recognizing her work at CARECEN’s annual dinner on November 21.

Sue Hagedorn accepting LIIFE Humanitarian Award earlier this year 

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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