New Documentary Follows Town’s Efforts to Improve Immigrant Relations

The 2008 murder of Marcelo Lucero galvanized the immigrant community of Patchogue, New York, where Lucero had lived for 13 years, making the town into a flashpoint for the national debate regarding immigration reform. A recently premiered one-hour PBS documentary, “Not in Our Town: Light in the Darkness,” follows the story of how the town responded to Lucero’s fatal stabbing.

Lucero’s killing shone a light on the plight of Patchogue’s immigrants, who suffered frequent muggings after leaving their restaurant and construction jobs with cash payments. Gilda Ramos, a local librarian, had learned about this problem from students in the library’s ESL class shortly before Lucero’s death. After the killing, she spearheaded an effort to turn the library into a safe gathering place for immigrants to voice their concerns, given they are often afraid to report crimes to police for fear of having their citizenship status questioned.

The efforts of Ramos and other immigrant activists profiled in the film have been complicated by a fraught relationship with Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy.

A recent U.S. Justice Department report on how the county can improve immigrant relations met with a measured response from Levy’s office, which said it would implement some suggestions but disagrees with others, the Huffington Post reported. A local clergyman, Allan Ramirez, told the Post that the DOJ report confirmed immigrant activists’ long-standing criticisms of Levy, such as that he has not implemented clear policies for how police should respond to hate crimes.