Eugenio Idrovo said he's seen some changes in the way immigrants are treated on Long Island since Marcelo Lucero was killed in Patchogue four years ago, but said it's still not easy for those who are new to the country.
Idrovo, 37, of Bay Shore, was a friend of Lucero. They hailed from the same Ecuadorean hometown of Gualaceo and were roommates at one point. Lucero, 37, was beaten and fatally stabbed on Nov. 8, 2008, by seven young men who authorities said had targeted Latino immigrants.
Idrovo said there are signs that residents in Patchogue and other Long Island communities are more open to Latino immigrants than four years ago. More immigrants are active in community affairs, particularly in Patchogue, and the streets feel less threatening, he said. But it's still not an easy transition from Latin America to Long Island, Idrovo said.
"We come from a country that's beautiful but there is no money, there are little prospects for jobs and that's why many come here," he said in Spanish. "Maybe it would be different if we all spoke the same language. There are times when I want to go back, but then there are other times when I won't consider it."
Idrovo was one of nearly a hundred immigrant supporters to attend an annual vigil in memory of Lucero Sunday at the United Methodist Church in Patchogue.
Romaine, a former Suffolk County legislator, said Lucero's killing struck a chord and made people re-examine their attitudes and perceptions of the immigrant community. He said the slaying also made local politicians think about how they addressed the immigration debate.
"You can disagree on policy and approaches but you debate the idea," Romaine said. "You don't demonize the people."
And that's exactly why Joselo Lucero, the victim's brother, continues to honor his brother's memory each year with a vigil.
During the service inside the church, Lucero, now an immigrant-rights advocate, told the group that when his brother was killed, the tragedy affected not only his family but also the families of the men involved in his death.
"It's something we are never going to forget, every single November," Lucero said. "The community learned something that day. They learned that everyone deserves respect."