Jupiter: A culture of hate preys on Florida’s "invisible" Guatemalans
Florida, the third most populous state, where one in five — about 4 million — are immigrants, has one of the worst records in the nation for reporting hate crimes, according to experts. The Florida Attorney General’s Office reported just 52 hate crimes related to race or ethnicity in 2016.
Mike Shively, senior associate at Abt Associates, a research group that produced a 2014 report on hate crimes against Latinos for the National Institute of Justice, said Florida’s numbers “really knocked our socks off.”
“It’s a very populous state with a very large percentage of the population that has Latin roots of some kind,” Shively said. “Really miniscule numbers.”
In Palm Beach County, one case broke through the reporting blackout, but only for its extreme nature, said Bauer of the Anti-Defamation League. The case, she said, showed the culture of hate targeting the isolated, almost invisible, Guatemalan immigrant community.
On April 18, 2015, Onésimo Marcelino López-Ramos, 18, was confronted outside his home in Jupiter by three men who beat him with a rock, a metal rod, and an ax handle — crushing his skull, prosecutors said. Assistant State Attorney Jill Richstone said the men were “Guat hunting,” referring to a practice of robbing and assaulting Guatemalans walking home on paydays.
“The reason we know what happened to Onésimo is because they killed him,” Bauer said. “And my fear is that things are happening every single day, all the time, without us hearing about them because people are so terrified to come forward.”
In May, one of three defendants, David Harris, 22, was convicted in a county court of first-degree murder, as well as a hate-crime charge, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Trial is set to begin Nov. 5 for co-defendant Austin Taggart, 22. His brother, Jesse Harris, 21, will be tried later.
Even as Jupiter police pushed for hate-crime charges in López-Ramos’s case, the city did not report any hate crimes in 2015, according to FBI statistics.
An analysis by ProPublica, a nonprofit journalism organization in New York, showed Florida had four of the top-10 largest cities in the country that did not report significantly, or at all, hate crimes to the FBI in 2016. The largest, Jacksonville, has not reported a single hate incident since 2014.