This week, presidential candidate Donald Trump, the leading anti-immigration voice in America, the man who has talked of deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants, plans to speak
at a GOP fundraising event three blocks from the spot where Lucero bled to death.
For any other candidate, the decision to accept an invitation to address more than 1,000 supporters near the site of a notorious hate crime would be a quickly corrected mistake. No reasonable politician would want to salt the wounds of a community that has worked hard to recover from the type of violence that occurred in Patchogue. The Lucero family's friend, Rev. Allan Ramirez, says Trump is "offending all of us who consider the area sacred ground." For Trump, it's business as usual.
In his infamous announcement speech in June, Trump devoted lots of time and emotional energy to the idea that America is being overrun by violent criminals "sent" intentionally by the Mexican government.
He said, "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. ... They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists." (In fact, undocumented immigrants are far more peaceable than others and commit fewer crimes
than U.S. citizens.)
Stirring the anti-immigrant fervor
After his announcement Trump headed to Arizona for his first big rally. Thirty-one states would vote for president before Arizona, so other candidates weren't yet visiting there. But Arizona is home to rabid anti-immigration groups such as the Minuteman Militia, a vigilante organization that has conducted armed patrols along the border.
Trump's appearance was advertised as an opportunity for locals to "stand up to illegal immigration," and it drew an enthusiastic crowd
of people who jostled for places in line and rushed the entrance once the doors were opened.
Trump appeared in Phoenix with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose department is under federal monitoring after the Justice Department determined it was guilty of racial profiling
. Like Trump, Arpaio has been part of the "birther" conspiracy movement, which alleges that President Barack Obama may not be a U.S. citizen.
In 2012, he announced
that his officers had found that Obama's birth certificate was a forgery. This claim, and Arpaio's allegation that Obama's Selective Service registration was also forged, was proved erroneous.
In Phoenix, where a small number of protesters greeted his appearance, Trump unveiled his proposal to build a huge border wall that he would force Mexico to pay for. He also resurrected Richard Nixon's term for those who supported his candidacy, calling them the "Silent Majority" and echoed generations of nativists as he promised to "take our country back."
Although Trump's campaign would inflate attendance at the rally to 15,000 (several times the capacity of the room), it did not exaggerate the enthusiasm of those who attended. Trump had chosen to appear in a place where immigration is a hot-button issue and he was guaranteed to attract a crowd that would welcome him and cheer his fear-mongering.
A month later Trump spoke to a large gathering at a stadium in Mobile, Alabama, where delegates wouldn't be selected until March 1. Although people across the South had begun to reconsider the meaning of Confederate symbols after a recent racist mass murder in South Carolina, the Stars and Bars were in evidence at the rally where a white supremacist tract was distributed in the parking lot and a man in the crowd shouted "white power!" as Trump spoke.
Once again Trump focused on immigrants, arguing that children born in America to undocumented parents should be denied citizenship.
In Mobile, as well as Arizona, Trump played to the fears of his mostly white base of support and scapegoated people who are essentially powerless to stand against him. However, he got what he wanted -- large, adoring crowds that suggested he was far more popular than political experts and pollsters allowed.
The momentum supplied by these events helped propel him to the top of the race for the GOP nomination where he remains today.
Pain and fear
However, Trump's success has also stirred pain and fear in the hearts of millions of people, most of them legal citizens, who look like the immigrants he demonizes, carry names like theirs and speak accented English. Nowhere is that pain more acute than in the little corner of Long Island where he intends to address 1,000 of the party faithful who will pay $150 apiece to enter the hall.
In this place, everyone knows about the tragedy of Marcelo Lucero's murder and that it was preceded by years of agitation by those who tried to make an issue out of immigration.
In the years before the Lucero killing, a local chapter of the Minuteman Militia was founded on Long Island and one of its supporters told
The New York Times that if police didn't enforce immigration laws "then someone has to."
In the same period, a county executive, who had designs on higher office, made undocumented immigrants into a big political issue. Like Trump, Steve Levy referred to children born to undocumented immigrants as "anchor babies." In 2006, he also falsely claimed that a local hospital closed
its maternity ward because "they can't deal with all of these anchor babies."
In the same speech, made before Lucero was killed, he said, "There has to be an end of the looking the other way or you're just going to be living in a nation of chaos." A decade later, chaos has yet to arrive, but anti-immigrant fear persists.
On Thursday, Trump brings his version of the hysteria to the place made holy by Marcelo Lucero's blood. Those who remember him plan to stand nearby in protest and to pray that hate speech doesn't lead to more violence.