UPDATE: As Community Mourns, Hope and Healing Begin

lucero4This past Friday, Marcelo Lucero was mourned by more than 500 people at the Congregation Church of Patchogue, in Long Island, NY. The funeral service comes exactly two weeks after Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant, was beaten and stabbed to death by a group of 7 teenagers who claim they were out looking "to beat up some Mexicans". For the village of Patchogue, the murder marks the terrifying culmination of the growing anti-immigrant sentiment in the village - a sentiment lead by Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. But, despite the fear and the anger and the mourning, the village's immigrants are looking for reconciliation and the hope for a better tomorrow.

"This is a community struggling with itself,” the mayor said. “There is the Hispanic community that is trying to understand why this is happening to them. But what you don’t hear is anger. You hear a lot of confusion, but you also hear a lot of people trying to say, ‘How are we going to stop this and how can we help.’ ”

Last friday, a diverse group gathered to do just that. A candelight vigil was held to remember Lucero and to call for an end to the hate being aimed at immigrants and Latinos living in the United States.

Wearing buttons with Marcelo's name, immigrants from Central and South America who are usually in the shadows poured onto Railroad Avenue to hug each other and let loose frustration and anger. The crowd also included whites and ranged from babies to grandparents, standing shoulder to shoulder and chanting "no more hate."

The New York Immigration Coalition helped to organize the vigil and also called on Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy to help lead the healing process in the area.

Out of this tragedy, there is a chance for Mr. Levy to lead Suffolk toward more practical policies that reduce tensions and build a stronger community. 

To start with, it's time to stop the divisive legislation, and instead, Mr. Levy and the legislature must seize the opportunity to act on serious proposals that can improve the situation here in Suffolk. 

This horrendous crime and other recent attacks on immigrants make it clear that Suffolk police need to formally adopt a confidentiality policy to reassure crime victims and witnesses that they can reach out to Suffolk police without fear of deportation. 

Marcelo Lucero need not have died in vain.  We can honor his life by ensuring that his legacy is in forging unity and finding solutions. 

Let's hope that Mr. Levy takes this call to action seriously. For the sake of Marcelo Lucero and the many Latinos who have been victimized by hate and ignorance in our country.