Concerns over violence continue to plague the Latino immigrant community in New York City’s boroughs but some question whether the motive is racial or economic – or both.
On Staten Island, police have increased their presence following a rash of attacks against the Mexican immigrant population in the area. Since spring, residents have reported incidences of beatings and robberies.
Last week, hundreds marched chanting the message, “The Hatred Must Stop!” in a symbol of solidarity with the immigrant community. Officials a number of the crimes may not have been reported since some of the victims are undocumented.
Locals refer to the attacks as “knockouts” – which is short for “knocking out a Mexican and taking their cash on pay day.” Many immigrants do not have back accounts, and therefore use checking cashing services and deal in cash only.
Antonio Rodriguez was the target of once such attempt. “They already tried to get me twice and I had to run so hopefully they catch the guys,” he said.
However, some locals claim that the motives for the attacks are purely economic and not necessarily tied to the victims’ ethnicity.
“The average Mexican immigrant is working five days a week. There’s young men here who can’t get a job,” she said. “Nobody has the right to attack anybody but I am saying it causes tension and frustration,” said Staten Island resident Delphine Butler.
Staten Island is not alone in experiencing increased incidences of violence against its Latino population. Last week, three New Jersey teens were arrested for beating 47-year-old Abelino Manzaniego outside the restaurant where he worked in a New York suburb. The assailants were identified from the video they made of the attack. Later, the emergency room nurse who treated the victim was arrested for stealing the cash from his wallet.
Earlier this year, a Long Island teen was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the hate crime killing of an Ecuadorian immigrant.