Federal Indictment of Teens and Cops Involved In Hate Crime Murder

December 15, 2009
Contact: John Garcia, Director of Communications (212) 739-7513

Federal prosecutors charged two men who had beaten a Latino man to death with hate crimes in connection with that death and charged four police officers, including the police chief, with covering up those crimes.

This indictment represents the tragic culmination of the horrendous surge of anti Latino hatred that dominates the public discourse in this nation. That these two men were motivated to kill a Latino because he was Latino is horrific enough; that the local police chief then decided to cover up those crimes is a miscarriage of justice of the worst sort, something not seen since the civil rights battles half a century ago.

“If nothing else, this incident should wake up the American public and its leaders that it is time to stop demonizing Latinos for the ills besetting them and arrive at rational policy for dealing with the immigrants living among us. It is time for immigration reform right now, not tomorrow,” said Cesar Perales, President and General Counsel LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “As long as political leaders and media pundits continue to communicate that the Latino immigrants do not belong in their communities, these people will feel comfortable attacking Latinos. Hopefully this indictment will send a message that the federal government is willing to pursue these crimes.”

Two teenagers were charged with a hate crime for the fatal beating of Luis Ramirez while shouting racial epithets at him in July 2008. Separate indictments accuse Shenandoah police chief, Matthew Nestor, and three officers under his command with a variety of charges, including witness tampering and lying to the FBI.

Four youths — including the two teens — were previously charged in state court in connection with Ramirez's death. A jury cleared two other teens of all serious charges, and a fourth pleaded guilty to federal charges.

The May verdicts were decried by Hispanic advocates who say Ramirez's death is part of a rising tide of hate crimes against Latinos. In 2007, local police reported to the FBI that there were 830 victims of anti-Hispanic crimes in 595 incidents around the nation. Both of these numbers represent increases over the previous year and surpass previous highs dating back to when annual reports were first mandated by the Hate Crimes Statistics Act.

Many have blamed a fractured federal immigration policy for the burgeoning spate of local police being involved in immigration policy. LatinoJustice PRLDEF has decried the explosion of local immigration enforcement, blaming such policies for an increase in police departments failing to investigate hate crimes.

Today Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIR ASAP) in the U.S. House of Representatives. The CIR contains guidelines and regulations targeting local immigration enforcement. Supported by members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Black Caucus, the Asian Pacific American Caucus, and the Progressive Caucus, CIR ASAP marks the opening of a much-needed debate to restore the rule of law to our broken immigration system. Congressman Gutierrez has laid down the first marker for Congress to begin this important conversation. Comprehensive immigration reform is urgent, and we need to provide relief from the siege mentality that our communities are currently suffering. Efforts to jump-start CIR legislation by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and others is right and is needed.

“Our country needs a reform policy that is humane and fair and one that doesn’t lead to racial profiling,” said Perales. “The failure to pass a fair national immigration policy has led to local enforcement that has exposed Latinos to be victims of hate crimes.”

Numerous academic and government reports have documented that a program requiring undocumented immigrants to register, get legal, and pay taxes would have a positive impact on the economy. By a margin of two to one, the American people believe that comprehensive immigration reform is better for America’s economy than forcing seven million workers to leave the United States.

Poll after poll demonstrates that the vast majority of Americans support a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system that restores the rule of law through smarter enforcement and a legalization program. Past election cycles have shown that voters overwhelmingly reject candidates who simply demagogue this issue or adopt extreme enforcement-only approaches rather than propose workable solutions to.

“Too many families have been suffering the effects of a broken immigration system that has demonized hard workers and has separated children from their parents,” Perales said.

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