From the “social cleansing” of Haitians in the Dominican Republic to Golden Dawn’s increasing power over parliament and police in Greece, the worldwide backlash against immigrants is increasing. The United States is no exception to this global rightward shift: over 2 million have been deported under Obama—who has also increased funding for more detention facilities and a militarized border patrol—while leading GOP candidate Donald Trump claims Mexico brings rapists across the border. Immigrant communities are continually scapegoated for the benefit of presidential campaigns and the prison industrial complex.
Just a train ride away from the five boroughs, Long Island has historically been a haven for white flight, complete with gated communities, segregated neighborhoods, right-wing politicians, and KKK organizing. The racist rhetoric has always been there, but is usually masked as concerns over property values, increased taxes, crime, and complaints about immigrant children “ruining the schools.”
In the past couple decades, the immigrant population on Long Island has quickly grown—now making up to 18% of the population. Some white Long Islanders have responded with a surge in violence against the Latino population and those who are perceived to be immigrants.
Recently in Farmingville, a Guatemalan man named Juan was on his way home from work when he was jumped by 3 men, one who said “I hate these people.” Earlier this year, one of the cops in the Suffolk Police department, who are handling the case, was caught on video stopping Latino drivers and robbing them. This is the basis of a class-action lawsuit, along with the of a case of a day laborer who was sodomized to death, which the department had ruled as “death by natural causes.”
Just weeks after Juan from Farmingville was beaten, the Riverhead town board (all ex-cops) spoke to the press in support of detaining people (not charged with any crime), solely based on immigration status. While police look the other way regarding vigilante racism and politicians spew anti-immigrant rhetoric, the neighborhood has reacted with their white flight fears in a pretty predictable manner, patrolling the area under the name Guardian Angels—a “neighborhood watch” group.
Last, Suffolk County is home to an active chapter of the Loyal White Knights of the KKK. In the last year, they have spread recruitment propaganda—and threats—in Port Jefferson, Patchogue, Wantagh, Rockville Centre, West Babylon, Shirley, and Hampton Bays. In the latter town, the flyers included racist cartoons which cautioned the “recipients to ‘beware’ of people looking to steal their jobs in the Suffolk County community.” In 2013, the Suffolk County Hate Crimes Unit recorded 83 “incidents of intolerance,” which ranged “from swastikas spray-painted on train stations to bias against black and Latino people. The number increased 5 percent to 87 in 2014.” The actual number of incidents is much higher, as traditionally many hate crimes go unreported.
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