July 14, 2000
Latino leaders are posting a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for assaults and injuries to migrant workers at a Carmel Valley encampment July 5th. They will be joined at a 12 p.m. press conference by representatives of the Anti-Defamation League, who are matching the original $5,000 reward. San Diego Councilman Byron Wear has committed another $5,000, making for a reward total of $15,000. The fund will be handled by Crime Stoppers, which will field all calls. Its "tip line" member is (619) 531-2681. A re-enactment of the brutal and unprovoked attack is expected to be filmed and broadcast shortly, as part of efforts to assist the San Diego police with leads.
The first victim was a sixty-six year old man who was shot in the back with a pellet gun, while he was carrying water to a nearby encampment. The assailants, a carload of young whites, were yelling things like "go back to Mexico" and threatening to call the immigration authorities. By the time that the attack ended, the assailants had shot and beat other migrant workers, including another elderly man, who was struck with a pipe.
"These were crimes of hate," says Ray Uzeta of the Chicano Federation. "They were committed not because of anything the migrants did, but simply because of who they are: Mexicans."
Latino leaders say that this was not an isolated case of targeting migrant workers simply because of their ethnicity. San Diego County has had a spate of incidents in which migrants were attacked with anything from blow darts and rocks, to baseball bats and metal pipes, although pellet guns are most often used. The bulk of these attacks go unreported for a variety of reasons, e.g., migrant workers may not want to call attention to themselves or their encampments. Obscenities, racist epithets and objects, such as bottles, are hurled at migrant workers on a regular basis.
"Migrants are very vulnerable, but if anyone thinks that migrants are friendless, think again," says Claudia Smith of the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, which serves farmworkers and has an Oceanside office.
"The Anti-Defamation League, an organization dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, is among their friends," says Morris Casuto, the director of its San Diego office. "We cannot let migrants be terrorized by those who presume to decide for all of us who belong in San Diego."
The attack was reminiscent of other hate crimes perpetrated against migrant workers in the same Carmel Valley area. In November, 1988, two migrants were shot dead with an assault rifle, while they were walking along Black Mountain Road. /The killer told authorities he disliked Mexicans and believed they took jobs from U.S. citizens. One of the victims was a naturalized U.S. citizen. In June, 1995, a group of migrants workers was fired on while waiting for their rides after a day's work at a tomato field on Black Mountain Road. The shooter made obscene remarks about Mexicans as he fired. There had been no confrontation before he started firing. One of the migrant workers was critically injured.
"Hate crimes are not only an attack on the individual victims," says Luis Natividad of the Latino Unity Coalition. "They are also an attack on the entire community."