Hunting Season: Immigration and Murder in an All-American Town

December 18, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Hate crimes are on the rise in New York State. A Division of Criminal Justice Services report issued in November showed a 30 percent increase from 2011 to 2012 – a dramatic enough jump that the New York Comptroller, Tom DiNapoli, is ordering an audit of local police departments’ reporting of hate crimes. The largest number of attacks were in New York City and in Suffolk County on Long Island.

In 2008, Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero was murdered by a white teenager, Jeffrey Conroy,  in the Suffolk County town of Patchogue. Before the murder, Conroy and six other teenage boys had been stalking other Latinos—a regular pastime which they called “hunting for beaners.”

Conroy was convicted of manslaughter as a hate crime and of assault against three other Hispanic men. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison while the other six participants plead guilty to various charges. Town officials were accused of knowing about the hate crime attacks but doing little to stop them. A four-year investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice resulted in mandatory oversight of the town’s police and other agencies.

Veteran journalist and Columbia School of Journalism professor Mirta Ojito investigates the crime—and the community—in her new book Hunting Season: Immigration and Murder in an All-American Town.

Ojito, an immigrant herself,  said she “wanted to understand the soul of a place where seven teenagers can feel empowered to…go out hunting for immigrants.”

She described a culture where undocumented immigrants were afraid to fight back or go to the police for help. “The case of Marcelo Lucero was different because he actually fought back,” she said. “That I know of he was the first one who instead of running away he fought back. And it cost him his life.”

Read an excerpt of Hunting Season: Immigration and Murder in an All-American Town below, courtesy of Beacon Press.