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Long Island Latinos express fear of being targets of shooters

About 40 people took part in a vigil in Brentwood on Wednesday aimed at combating racism and advocating for tougher gun laws. The gathering comes on the heels of two mass shootings this past weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that shocked the nation. (Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)

Latinos on Long Island said they worry a copycat shooter could target them like the alleged white supremacist who opened fire in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, last weekend, heightening fears already stoked by anti-immigration rhetoric coming from the White House.

“Since Trump has been president, I’ve had to deal with the frustration and anxiety with what was happening under his leadership,” said Beverly Rivera, 69, of Central Islip. “My first thought was going to the Walmart . . . the same thing could happen here.”

Rivera was among about 40 people who took part in a vigil in Brentwood on Wednesday aimed at combating racism and advocating for tougher gun laws. The gathering comes on the heels of two mass shootings this past weekend that shocked the nation. The first was Saturday in El Paso, where 22 were killed. A second occurred early Sunday in Dayton, Ohio, where a gunman killed nine people.

Legis. Sam Gonzalez (D-Brentwood) said under President Donald Trump, Latinos — whether in the country legally or illegally — are constantly on edge. Participants met at Gonzalez’s office in Brentwood on Wednesday night and walked a few blocks holding up signs denouncing Trump, ICE, racism and gun violence. Several drivers honked in support of the group.

Investigators are looking into whether the El Paso shooter, Patrick Crusius, 21, wrote a screed expressing anger toward Latinos. The posts used language Trump has written in tweets and spoken at his rallies.

“The community right now is scared. They’re the most scared they’ve ever been,” Gonzalez said. “My district is heavy Latino and heavy undocumented — and it scares me. . . . It could happen anywhere.”

The number of children who sign up for medical benefits in his district has dipped drastically, he said, because Latinos are scared that putting their names to public records could lead to a visit from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Isaac Boxwill, 11, of Central Islip, said he didn’t approve of Trump’s actions, specifically mentioning mass deportations and placing children in detention centers. He said, “If I could vote for the presidential election, I would vote for somebody else.”

Isaac, who was born on Long Island but has roots in Honduras and Italy, said an aunt was deported in Trump’s first year in office, making him both sad and angry.

He said although he hasn’t felt any overt racism, his Latino friends have. They have coped with people saying things like: “They shouldn’t be in this country. They’re going to get them deported. Very mean stuff,” Isaac said.

Dulce Rojas, 28, who is with the nonprofit SEPA Mujer, a women’s advocacy group based in Patchogue, compared the current anti-immigrant climate to when Ecuadorian Marcelo Lucero was killed in a hate crime in 2008, attacked by a group of teenagers in Patchogue.

“It’s really heartbreaking to see it all over again,” she said. When asked if Trump’s words and actions are contributing to a more dangerous environment for Latinos, Rojas said: “He has no idea the hate that he’s provoking. And if he does, it sounds to me like he’s a very vile person.”

Maxima Castro of Brentwood said she emigrated from the Dominican Republic and wondered why immigrants were targeted in El Paso. “This country is made up of immigrants. Without us, it wouldn’t be what it is,” she said.

Castro added the government had to step up and regulate access to guns.

“I hope that something is done about all these guns that are so easily bought by these people without any licenses, without any regulations.”

With Jasmine Fernandez

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