Opinion writers and columnists are still discussing the landmark Russell Pearce recall in Arizona last week, but we wanted to take time and make sure that other anti-immigrant extremists drummed out of office also had their day.
Technically, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy (R-Long Island) wasn’t running for reelection: he agreed to bow out last year after investigators began looking into his campaign fundraising tactics and found serious problems with his use of public resources. But his heir apparent, Republican Angie Carpenter, was handily defeated by Democrat Steve Bellone last week, meaning Levy’s reign is effectively at an end.
You can bet many Long Islanders will be cheering. Levy had built a reputation as one of the most notable anti-immigrant public officials in New York state, refusing to discourage the nativism and intolerance that led to several anti-immigrant hate crimes near his Long Island home.
During Levy’s tenure, New York’s Suffolk County was something of a 21st century breeding ground for racial violence: Latino immigrants were routinely beaten, pelted with rocks, and spit at. They were harassed by police officers and racial epithets were scrawled on their homes. They were afraid to leave their houses and lived under constant threat of assault. High school students casually talked about “beaner jumping,” where attacks on Latino immigrants were treated as a common pastime.
And then, the worst happened. Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero was stabbed to death by seven high school students who later told a judge that they targeted Hispanics for kicks, because their victims either wouldn’t call the police or would probably have their complaints disregarded.
Levy has done little to discourage nativist intolerance or prevent hate attacks. In fact, he has thrown coals into the fire. Levy was defensive after Lucero’s death, in denial of how his own actions have cultivated an atmosphere of hate. Before that, he once encouraged racial profiling by police. And instead of listening to long expressed concerns about hate crimes, Levy has been regularly combative with immigrant rights’ advocates and ridiculed them as the lunatic fringe.
Not only did Levy refuse to intervene, he actually stood against the Latino victims. If there’s one person who should be held accountable for Suffolk’s climate of fear, it’s him.
Which is why it’s somewhat poetic that the Democratic takeover of his seat last week came on the three-year anniversary of Lucero’s death, which was recently commemorated in the PBS documentary “Not In Our Town: Light in the Darkness.”
In any case, both Pearce’s recall and the Republican defeat in Suffolk should tell anti-immigrant extremists across the country one thing: Americans are tired of this nativist excess and immigrant-bashing. The country needs real ideas for renewal and reform, not more fear-mongering and hate-breeding.