'Go back to Mexico, wetback'
    Lansing Police investigating anti-immigration attack as hate crime

    “Trump doesn’t like you.” That’s how an assault against an undocumented immigrant in Lansing began on Wednesday.

    The victim said he was addressed by two men, who sought to use his lighter. When he approached the men, “who smelled like alcohol,” they berated him, then assaulted him. When he was on the ground, the assailants stapled a note to his stomach.

    “Go back to Mexico, wetback,” the man said the note read.

    The victim agreed to an interview on the condition of anonymity.

    Lansing Police spokesman Robert Merritt confirmed Tuesday that the department is investigating the attack as a hate crime.

    Merritt confirmed that the assault took place at 11:40 p.m. near Denver and Cedar streets, between Mt. Hope Avenue and Holmes Road, but he declined to give further information while the investigation is under way.

    The victim said, “I was walking and two white people asked me for a lighter. When I put my head down, they started beating me,” he said.

    The attackers beat him, knocked him to the ground and kicked him in the head. The immigrant received injuries to his hand as he shielded his face. He is bruised on the sides and back of his head, he said.

    Lying on the ground after the beating, he felt the staples go into his stomach before the attackers fled. Emergency responders took him to the hospital. He was treated and released.

    The man suspects the attack was premeditated because the note was pre-written and the attackers had their staple gun on hand.

    The man said he is an undocumented immigrant who has lived in Lansing for 27 years. He sought anonymity because he fears retaliation from his attackers or federal immigration authorities.

    He said alcohol was likely involved, judging by the smell of his attackers.

    The attack took more than just a psychological toll. He claims to have lost two jobs because he was briefly afraid to go out and unable to work due to the injuries to his head and hands.

    “I got scared to death, scared to come on the news, that those guys could come and do this again,” he said.

    That case raised concern from activists that the alarm was not sounded to the community. Lansing Police have not issued any press statements on this anti-immigrant case, either.

    Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon, reached by phone on Tuesday, said she was unaware of the case. But she said it served as a reminder of the “urgency” to get a program up and running to have a community and law enforcement response to hate incidents in the county.

    The man sees his attack as part of a larger spike in anti-immigration attacks across the country.

    The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups in the U.S., reported 901 bias incidents in the week following the unexpected victory of Donald Trump. The billionaire launched his campaign by comparing Mexican immigrants to rapists and continued that rhetoric throughout the campaign. He promised rally-goers while on the stump he would build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico in order to stem undocumented immigration into the country.

    His wall plans have floundered since he took office Jan. 20.

    “Incidents by type ranked by number of reports include: Anti-immigrant (206), anti-Black (151), anti-LGBT (80), swastika vandalism (60), anti-Muslim (51), and anti-woman (36),” the civil rights organization reported in November. “We are keeping track of anti-Trump incidents as well, which rose from our last report from 20 to 27.”

    The Denver Street incident also came on the heels of a contentious City Council battle to declare Lansing a sanctuary city and to resist efforts by Trump to deport undocumented citizens without criminal histories. The debate ramped up in April, and the city became the national flash point over the issue of sanctuary when it voted unanimously to declare itself one. A week later, the Lansing City Council reversed itself.

    The reversal had no effect on an executive order issued by Mayor Virg Bernero that directed police to find ways to avoid becoming an arm of the th U.S. Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The move to become a sanctuary city has been shown to increase reports of crimes in communities with large populations of undocumented immigrants, activists said at the time.

    The victim from the Denver Street attack said he did fear that immigration officials or police would target him for reporting his victimization, but felt he had to step up and report the crime anyway. He’s encouraging others in the community to do the same. “Whatever you think is right,” he said. “Just do it.”

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