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Immigration Policy Blamed for Latino Deaths in NY and Nation

December 19, 2008

New York, NY — Hate crimes against Latinos are up by 40 percent in recent years, and a New York-based civil rights group says U.S. immigration policy is to blame. The group, LatinoJustice PRLDEF (Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund), filed a petition Thursday with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concerning two recent murders in New York and the rise of violence against Latinos in general.

The group charges that police are treating all Latinos as suspects of immigration violations, which promotes a belief that they can be attacked with impunity. LatinoJustice president and general counsel Cesar Perales says the feds have been so busy deputizing local police to enforce immigration law that they missed major human rights violations.

"It gives license to violent young men living in these communities to go out and commit crimes against Latinos; they know the Latinos will not report these crimes, that the Latinos are more afraid of being deported then they are of being attacked."

The State Department had no immediate comment on the petition. The Commission is part of the Organization of American States, which includes the United States as one of its original members.

The legal petition includes three murders in the last five months. Perales says one of the Latino victims was killed in Brooklyn, and another on Long Island.

"New York has become a hotbed of anti-Latino sentiment; two of the recent murders of Latinos by roving bands have occurred in the state of New York, and while New York State is not a party to this action, clearly we've laid out evidence that comes out of what is happening in New York."

A third Latino was killed in Pennsylvania, and prosecutors say in all three cases the attackers used racial slurs as they assaulted their victims.

Michael Clifford/Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY