The true story of an immigrant's murder that turned a quaint village on the Long Island shore into ground zero in the war on immigration
In November 2008, Marcelo Lucero, a thirty-seven-year-old undocumented Ecuadorean immigrant, was attacked and murdered by a group of teenagers as he walked the streets of the Long Island village of Patchogue accompanied by a childhood friend. The attackers were out “hunting for beaners.” Chasing, harassing, and assaulting defenseless “beaners”—their slur for Latinos—was part of their weekly entertainment, some of the teenagers later confessed. Latinos—primarily men and not all of them immigrants—have become the target of hate crimes in recent years as the nation wrestles with swelling numbers of undocumented immigrants, the suburbs become the newcomers’ first destination, and public figures advance their careers by spewing anti-immigration rhetoric.
Lucero, an unassuming worker at a dry cleaner’s, became yet another victim of anti-immigration fever. In the wake of his death, Patchogue was catapulted into the national limelight as this formerly unremarkable suburb of New York became ground zero in the war on immigration. In death, Lucero became a symbol of everything that was wrong with our broken immigration system: fewer opportunities to obtain visas to travel to the United States, porous borders, a growing dependency on cheap labor, and the rise of bigotry.
Drawing on firsthand interviews and on-the-ground reporting, journalist Mirta Ojito has crafted an unflinching portrait of one community struggling to reconcile the hate and fear underlying the idyllic veneer of their all-American town. With a strong commitment to telling all sides of the story, Ojito unravels the engrossing narrative with objectivity and insight, providing an invaluable look at one of America’s most pressing issues.
Mirta Ojito, a newspaper reporter since 1987, has worked for the Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, and, from 1996 to 2002, the New York Times, where she covered immigration, among other beats, for the Metro desk. She has received numerous awards, including a shared Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2001 for a series in the Times about race in America. The author of Finding Manana: A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus, she is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York City.