MALDEF Calls for National Action following Immigrant Murder

From the MALDEFian

AUGUST 8, 2008 – On July 12, Luis Ramirez, a 25-year-old Mexican immigrant residing in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, was beaten and stomped to death. Witnesses overheard anti-Mexican and ethnic epithets shouted by his assailants. This violent hate crime is a tragic example of the growing and virulent anti-immigrant sentiment heard and felt around the nation. We must put a stop to it.

In the days following his murder, MALDEF called upon U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, the United States Attorney’s Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct a full and fair federal investigation, and to bring appropriate criminal charges against those responsible.

MALDEF also called for the dispatch of representatives from the Department of Justice Community Relations Service to quell community tensions. The Department of Justice subsequently opened a federal civil rights investigation and dispatched CRS representatives to Shenandoah.

MALDEF organized a vigil and press conference in memory of Luis Ramirez together with local community members, and focused national attention on the significance of this hate crime specifically, and those against Latinos generally. MALDEF provided much needed legal support to Luis Ramirez’s fiancé and their children in the aftermath of this tragedy.

While local officials initially attempted to minimize the ethnic aspects of the murder, the county district attorney filed murder and ethnic intimidation charges against three local teenagers. Charging documents and eyewitness accounts indicate that Luis Ramirez suffered racial slurs as the perpetrators punched and kicked his body and head causing him to foam at the mouth, to sustain two skull fractures, and ultimately, to die.

The death of Luis Ramirez has repercussions beyond his family and community. The FBI Hate Crimes Statistics Report documents that hate crimes against Latinos have increased by 35% over the past several years. We must prevent these crimes from happening and demand prosecution and punishment to the full extent of the law when they do.

MALDEF will continue to assist Luis Ramirez’s family and Latinos in the Shenandoah community as the criminal case goes forward. Luis Ramirez’s death elevates the importance of strong hate crimes laws and enforcement and exposes the depth of hostilities immigrants face all too often.

MALDEF has worked this year on the recent introduction of federal legislation to improve the integration of immigrants into cities, towns and communities across the country. S.3334/H.R.6617, introduced by Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Representative Mike Honda (D-CA), Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Representative Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) will authorize the creation of immigrant integration councils bringing together local leaders from labor, business, education, faith, ethnic and other walks of life to promote education, job training, civic engagement and broader interaction of immigrants and the wider community. Tough prosecution of hate crimes and avenues to empower immigrants in their new communities can make a difference.

MALDEF will represent the family of Luis Ramirez and will do all that we can to ensure that justice is done. We call on you to help ensure the safety and advancement of immigrants in your own city or town. Call your Senator and Member of Congress today and ask them to cosponsor S.3334/H.R.6617. Send the message that the demonization of Latinos and immigrants must desist, our civil rights must be protected, and our contributions to the community must be respected.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF, the nation’s leading Latino legal organization, promotes and protects the rights of Latinos through litigation, advocacy, community education and outreach, leadership development and higher education scholarships.

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