“A lot of people in Port Richmond, New Brighton, West Brighton, everywhere, it’s Latinos getting hit,” said the father of the latest victim. In early April, 26-year-old Mexican immigrant, Rodolfo Olmedo, was assaulted by four men who beat him with a baseball bat, wooden planks and a metal chain, and yelled anti-Mexican slurs at him. “You’re a f—— Mexican,” the suspects allegedly told Olmedo. “We’re gonna beat you up.” The next Sunday, another Mexican man was attacked with a bat. A third assault in April left a Latino man with a broken arm, and stitches across his forehead. Meanwhile, this past Tuesday, a Staten Island man was arrested for making threatening phone calls to the Rev. Al Sharpton over his opposition to Arizona’s immigration law.
Rep. Michael McMahon (D-NY) has condemned the attacks, stating, “[t]his attack is just the latest in a string of disgraceful violence against members of our community whose only crime is having a different background. It is very upsetting to me that such hateful crimes could occur on the streets of Staten Island.” So far, it appears his opponents in the upcoming election have remained silent on the attacks, but they have chosen to fan the flames of the related immigration debate. Fellow candidate Candidate Michael Allegretti (R) recently said that Arizona is “under siege by illegal aliens.” “We cannot allow people to be a drain on our resources, our schools, our hospitals, and our tax dollars,” stated Allegretti. Congressional candidate Michael Grimm (R) has stated he supports an immigration law that requires “all those detained or questioned by local law enforcement personnel for a specific suspicion of violating local or state laws to be required to produce appropriate identification.” Staten Island Borough President Jim Molinaro, who is not running in the race, slammed Mexican Felipe Calderon’s opposition to the Arizona law, stating “[t]he man should’ve been given a one-way ticket out of the country back to the banana republic where he came from.”
It might seem that the race for New York’s 13th Congressional District has little to do with the string of attacks against Latinos that is plaguing Staten Island, however, several reports over the past few years have indicated that the heated immigration debate has led to a nationwide increase in anti-Latino heat crimes. A report released by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) directly attributed a disturbing environment of “racial intolerance and anti-immigrant hatred” in nearby Suffolk County, NY in part to the fiery anti-immigrant rhetoric of local politicians and law enforcement. Allegretti and Molinaro’s comments probably didn’t motivate the Staten Island attackers, but they do contribute to an environment of fear and hate towards immigrants. Meanwhile, if Grimm’s policy were to go into effect, chances are crimes like these would never be reported in the first place.