Earlier this week, Long Islanders saw a familiar, if unwelcome, bit of news: Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy calling for a law that would force employers who contract with the county to check the immigration status of their employees.
Before the November 2008 hate-crime killing of Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue, it wouldn’t have been unusual to see Levy support legislation aimed at curbing illegal immigration, or spout off baseless rhetoric against undocumented immigrants, whom he frequently blamed for financial problems in the county.
He aspired to take his immigration crusade to the national level, boasting about interviews with CNN’s now-embattled commentator Lou Dobbs, and forming a national organization to unite politicians against illegal immigration.
The county executive was so entrenched in anti-immigrant politics that a 2009 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center called him the “enabler-in-chief” when explaining how a climate of fear emerged among Suffolk Latinos.
Then came the Lucero killing. Seven teenagers headed to Patchogue as part of a night of “beaner hopping”—slang they used for hunting down and assaulting Latinos—when they encountered Lucero, who was beaten, stabbed, and left to die.
The hate crime drew national attention to Suffolk County, and exposed a pattern of unreported crimes against Latinos.
The crime also drew attention to the Suffolk County executive. Suddenly, his rants about illegal immigration vanished, or only surfaced in passing comments.
With the employment verification bill proposed earlier this week, however, Levy appears to be heading back to the future, ready to reignite the immigration issue in Suffolk regardless of the consequences.
Just how far did he go to demonize undocumented immigrants in the years before the Lucero killing? Hear for yourself by listening to a speech made by the county executive at the Lindenhurst Memorial Library in October 2006.
While the speech received little media attention initially, months later, The New York Times cited Levy’s words in an editorial—pointing out that the county executive outright lied about the impact of undocumented immigrant births on the maternity ward at the Southampton Hospital, employing the derogatory term “anchor baby” to refer to the US-citizen children of undocumented immigrants.
Here is the first in a series of audio clips from the speech that will be released by Long Island Wins. This one-minute clip is spliced from three separate sections of the speech that feature Levy erroneously ranting about undocumented women in Suffolk County.
–Lindenhurst Memorial Library
–David Sperling, Esq.
–Pew Hispanic Center
–The New York Times