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Yave Begnet

Latino Migrant Beaten to Death in Pennsylvania

The AP carried this article over the weekend about what appears to be the racially-motivated killing of a Latino migrant by a group of teenagers in rural Pennsylvania:


Luis Ramirez came to the U.S. from Mexico six years ago to look for work, landing in this town in Pennsylvania's coal region. Here, he found steady employment, fathered two children and, his fiancee said, occasionally endured harassment by white residents.

Now he is headed back to Mexico in a coffin.

The 25-year-old illegal immigrant was beaten over the weekend after an argument with a group of youths, including at least some players on the town's beloved high school football team, police said. Despite witness reports that the attackers yelled ethnic slurs, authorities say the beating wasn't racially motivated.

. . .

Crystal Dillman, the victim's 24-year-old fiancee, who is white and grew up here, said Ramirez was often called derogatory names, including "dirty Mexican," and told to return to his homeland.

"People in this town are very racist toward Hispanic people. They think right away if you're Mexican, you're illegal, and you're no good," said Dillman, who has two young children by Ramirez and a 3-year-old who thought of him as her father.

On Dillman's fireplace mantel hangs a medallion of Jesus that Ramirez was wearing the night he was beaten. Ramirez had an imprint of the medallion on his chest, marking where an assailant stomped on him, she said.

Police Chief Matthew Nestor acknowledged there have been problems as the community — the birthplace of big band musicians Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey and home of Mrs. T's Pierogies — has tried to adjust to an influx of Hispanics, who now comprise as much as 10 percent of the population.

Teenagers have sprayed racially tinged graffiti and yelled racial slurs at the newcomers, he said.

"Things are definitely not the way they used to be even 10 years ago. Things have changed here radically," Nestor said. "Some people could adapt to the changes and some just have a difficult time doing it. ... Yeah, there is tension at times. You can't deny that."

Retired Philadelphia police Officer Eileen Burke, who lives on the street where the fight occurred, told The Associated Press she heard a youth scream at one of Ramirez's friends after the beating to tell her Mexican friends to get out of Shenandoah, "or you're going to be laying next to him."
. . .

Arielle Garcia and her husband, who were with Ramirez when he was beaten late Saturday, said they had dropped their friend off at a park but returned when he called to say he had gotten into a fight.

She saw someone kick Ramirez in the head, she said, and "that's when he started shaking and foaming out of the mouth."

The Garcias said they heard the youths call Ramirez "stupid Mexican" and an ethnic slur.

The efforts of the local police so far seem to have been to obfuscate and protect the families of the suspects from public embarrassment. The local paper met with official resistance when trying to cover the story:

When a reporter initially asked to gain access to the incident log in the locked police station Thursday, borough Manager Joseph Palubinsky questioned why The REPUBLICAN & Herald wanted to see it.

“I think The REPUBLICAN has done enough damage already,” Palubinsky said. Palubinsky did not clarify his concern regarding reporter access to the log or how specifically the newspaper’s coverage of the high-profile homicide on a public street had been damaging.

This story is important because this family’s tragedy—and the lesser tragedies of the boys who were so motivated by fear and hatred of the “other” that they beat another human being to death—represents the experience of millions of migrants living in this country in today’s poisonous environment.

An environment that has been cultivated over the years by an organized political movement. An environment that results in impunity for killers like Joe Horn—provided the victims are from the underclass still labeled “illegal” as a matter of editorial policy by our so-called liberal media. A climate that permits pregnant mothers to be shackled, forced to give birth in police custody, and then torn from their newborn infants—again all for being present in the U.S. without authorization and, perhaps more importantly, for being Latina.

The racial motivations of the perpetrators/oppressors in each of these scenarios cannot reasonably be disentangled from the immigration status of the victims. The punitive immigration laws that target people like Ramirez and DeLaPaz were enacted largely from racial motives—from fear of the waves of brown political and economic refugees produced by longstanding, short-sighted U.S. intervention in Mexico and Central America. And those same fears—fear of displacement and of unfamiliar cultures—have been fanned for political gain into flames of hatred from the embers of the World Trade Center by the restrictionist movement and the federal government.

As the local Shenandoah paper noted in a recent editorial:

[T]his tragic incident is not so much about who is responsible for America’s failed immigration policy as it is about the right of human beings to — live.

If only this message could be communicated to the rest of the country. The emerging Sanctuarysphere is willing to try. This story has been covered so far at (please let me know in comments who I’ve left out):


The Pink Flamingo

I Am a Shadow

DREAM Act Texas

ImmigrationProf Blog

American Humanity

Immigration Talk with a Mexican-American

Daily Kos (marina’s diary)

Standing FIRM

Yave Begnet: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 7:21 AM, Jul 22, 2008 in Civil Rights
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