It could be a horror movie complete with scary – and pathetic – characters. But even though it is horrific in its unfairness and inhumanity, the effects of Arizona’s new anti-immigration law is a reality.
The main characters, Gov. Jean Brewer, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Sen. John McCain, with their disregard for the humanity of immigrants and for America’s traditions and constitution, would be at home in a Stephen King story.
Despite a federal judge gutting the so-called "show me your papers" law Wednesday and setting up a lengthy court battle, its divisive and racist results began to be felt weeks ago. The anti-immigrant climate exacerbated by proposing such a law has empowered racist mobs into violence.
Even in New York, the quintessential immigrant city, hate crimes against Latino immigrants have spread like a malignant virus – nowhere more destructively than on Staten Island.
The national climate of fear furthered by Arizona’s new law is felt acutely in Port Richmond, where assaulting Latino workers has become a favorite sport of the intolerant racist.
To demonstrate a united stand against the hate that has affected communities on Staten Island, hundreds of residents joined Make the Road New York members and their supporters to march yesterday through the streets of Port Richmond – the flashpoint of recent bias attacks against immigrants.
The problem is serious.
There have been 10 attacks since April 5 that are being investigated as hate crimes. Eight arrests have been made.
Among the most brutal attack is the latest- the beating of Fidel González, a Mexican immigrant, on July 23 in Manor Heights, near Port Richmond, where the other nine took place.
On June 24, Alejandro Galindo, a 52-year-old Mexican immigrant, was viciously attacked by three men without provocation. He was taken to the intensive care unit of Richmond University Medical Center with a fractured eye socket and brain trauma.
On June 23, a Hispanic teenager was savagely beaten . But this time the victim was not an immigrant, but an 18-year-old Puerto Rican student – a U.S. citizen – just starting his summer vacation.
On April 5 Rodolfo Olmedo, a 25-year-old Mexican baker, suffered a skull fracture from a beating outside his home.
On April 17, a 23-year-old Mexican immigrant was beaten and left unconscious.
On April 25, another Mexican man was also severely beaten on Castleton Ave.
This year, the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force has investigated 21 bias crimes on Staten Island – more than twice as many than last year.
"We will act decisively in order to protect our citizens. We are working hand-in-hand with local authorities on all levels", said Rubén Beltrán, Consul General of Mexico in New York.
Beltrán met with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly on Tuesday who asked him to spread the word that the NYPD is not an immigration agency and that victims and witnesses of crimes should not be afraid to come forward.
"I’m concerned about the recent spike in bias crimes on Staten Island, and the threat it poses to individuals of Mexican descent in particular. We’re devoting additional resources, beginning tonight, to address it." Kelly said.
Welcome news but not enough. Because as long as the immigration debate is dominated by the likes of the Brewsters and the Arpaios, racist mobs will feel empowered to assault Latinos.
That is why a united Port Richmond community felt compelled to do what every New Yorker needs to do: take a firm stand against hate.