By Mara Schiavocampo, NBC News correspondent
Carlos is a Mexican immigrant who has been living in New York's Suffolk County for about nine years. In that time, he says he has repeatedly been the victim of anti-Latino discrimination and harassment. Carlos says he's been spit at, insulted, and once, severely beaten. "They broke one of my knees, one of my shoulders and they hurt my back. They took my teeth out. I was in the hospital for two weeks."
Carlos is just one of hundreds of Latinos interviewed for the Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) new report on anti-Latino hate crimes in Suffolk County. The report found that the abuse is extremely widespread. Investigator Sarah Reynolds estimated that "99 percent" of the people she spoke with had faced some kind of discrimination.
The abuse ranges from the minor to the tragic. Last November Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero was stabbed to death as he walked home in what prosecutors call a hate crime.
Though the report focuses on just one county, the SPLC says Suffolk is a microcosm of America. According to FBI statistics, anti-Latino hate crimes increased 40 percent between 2003 and 2007. Why? For one thing, demographics are in fact changing, leading some to feel angry about immigration policies, which can lead to anti-Latino violence. There are currently about 12 million illegal immigrants living in the US, and 1.1 million immigrants are legally admitted to the country each year. For some, the changing face of America is cause for anger, and tragically in some cases, violence.