bias attacks alarm local community

September 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

NJ Star Ledger:  Armando Andara sat in his kitchen in Plainfield on a recent Friday night with a dinner of rice and beans and a broken nose waiting to be reset. The 22-year-old sheetrock installer’s face was a mass of bruises — the result, he said, of being beaten with a pipe by a group of black men while walking to a store on West Front Street on Aug. 19. “He didn’t want any money. He only wanted to attack me,” the Honduran immigrant said through a translator, noting one assailant shouted racial slurs at him. “I was trying to run, and they were behind me, hitting me.” Andara has lived in Plainfield for six years. But he said that after the attack, he is considering moving to North Carolina with his wife and two sons. Carmen Salavarrieta, the director of the nonprofit Latino advocacy group Angels in Action, worries that racially motivated attacks are on the rise in Plainfield, three years after the robbery and fatal beating of a Guatemalan immigrant. Five young men were charged with murder as a hate crime in that case. Nearly one-third of the city’s population is Hispanic, according to U.S. Census estimates. More than half of the city is black, and about 9 percent is white and non-Hispanic. Some 30 percent of the population is foreign-born, according to the Census. Salavarrieta, who helps find medical assistance for Latino assault victims, said seven attacks she believes were racially motivated have occurred in the city this year, including three last month. There were 11 attacks last year, she said, noting the recession has not eased feelings that illegal immigrants are taking jobs from working-class citizens. Complicating the issue for police, many recent assault victims appear unwilling to report the attacks, Salavarrieta said. “A lot of the persons who’ve been attacked, they don’t use those words, ‘racial attack,’ because they don’t know what that is,” Salavarrieta said, noting others are afraid of being detained over their immigration status.

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