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Anti-Immigrant Speech: “Words have Consequences” in NY, Nation

Immigrant advocates met with the Riverhead Town Board to discuss concerns about anti-immigrant statements. Photo Courtesy: Long Island Wins.
Immigrant advocates met with the Riverhead Town Board to discuss concerns about anti-immigrant statements. Photo Courtesy: Long Island Wins.
August 24, 2015

NEW YORK - From the presidential campaign trail to the town of Riverhead on Long Island, there has been plenty of tough talk about illegal immigrants this summer and some are concerned it may be inspiring acts of violence.

Last week, two brothers were charged with beating a homeless Latino man in Boston. The Boston Globe reports one of the men told authorities after the attack "Donald Trump was right, they need to be deported."

Maryann Sinclair Slutsky, executive director with Long Island Wins, says that same rhetoric could have inspired the three unidentified suspects who beat a 52-year-old Guatemalan Man-in a hate crime incident in Farmingdale last month.

"That was after Donald Trump started his whole anti-immigrant messaging," says Slutsky. "This kind of rhetoric empowers people to commit violence against the Latino community and these are the consequences that are already happening."

Candidate Trump said it would be a shame if the Boston brothers acted based in his stands, but added his supporters are very passionate and want this country to be great again.

Slutsky is concerned recent statements by several Riverhead Town Board members calling for people suspected of being undocumented immigrants to be held in custody is contributing to a climate of fear and could provoke more violence on Long Island.

The Riverhead Town Board met Thursday with civil rights and immigrant advocates to discuss concerns regarding recent comments about detaining undocumented immigrants who have not been arrested for any crime and how that may be heating up anti-immigrant speech on Long Island.

Slutsky says town officials seemed attentive during the meeting, but she wants them to take a clear stand against making further anti-immigrant statements, because she says recent events show tough talk can have real consequences.

"I asked them directly, 'Will these anti-immigrant comments stop?' And we really did not get an answer," she says.

While several Town Board members in Riverhead have talked about detaining undocumented immigrants for various reasons, there is currently no measure pending to authorize that kind of action.

Slutsky says all this tough talk is forcing many in the immigrant community to go deeper underground, where they will be unlikely to cooperate with the police. She says that will make the entire community less safe.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY