On December 8 in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, José Osvaldo Sucuzhanay was murdered in what is believed to be a hate crime. Coming on the heels of November's brutal battery and murder of Marcelo Lucero in Suffolk County, NY, this makes two such murders of Hispanics in barely a month.

According to Sucuzhanay's brother, Jose and Romel Sucuzhanay went to a party at their church on Saturday night where they had dinner and drinks. They then went to a bar and, according to the police report, were walking home arm-in-arm when the assailants pulled up in a car and began yelling anti-Latino and antigay slurs at them. The assailants broke a beer bottle across Jose's head before turning on his brother to continue the attack. Romel, who was visiting from Ecuador, barely escaped as the attackers turned on his incapacitated brother. Jose was beaten, kicked, and hit repeatedly with an aluminum baseball bat.

Jose Osvaldo Sucuzhanay was the coowner of a real estate agency in Bushwick and an Ecuadorian native who legally immigrated to the U.S. His death is a tragic, sobering example of hate crimes in our country.

"This senseless violence has to stop. Our country is better than this," said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S. NCLR has joined other civil rights and Latino leaders to urge Congress and the new Administration to make passage of the "Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act" a priority.

"President-Elect Obama and the new Congress should not waste any time in passing this critical legislation," said Murguía. "Lives are at stake."

The act would provide hate crime training for officers, funds for prosecutors, and federal jurisdiction in the processing of hate crime cases. At present, there are six states with no hate crime laws and several others with inadequate established measures. The most recent version of the act can be found here.

Late last month, the FBI released its latest hate crime statistics, which show that attacks against Latinos and Asian Americans have risen steadily over the past four years. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that the number of hate groups targeting Latinos and immigrants has also increased during the same period.

NCLR has linked the rise in hate crimes and hate groups targeting Latinos to the polarizing debate surrounding immigration reform. "These recent deaths are a direct outcome of the anger and hatred spurred on by people who mischaracterize all Latinos and the institutions that serve them as a threat to our country," said Murguía. For two years, NCLR has urged politicians and cable news outlets to show some restraint in echoing the damaging rhetoric that demonizes our communities.

"We recognize that there are many who disagree with our policy positions, and we welcome a spirited debate over those positions. But there is no place for hate in civil discourse," concluded Murguía.

To learn more about the code words of hate and what your community can do to combat hate speech, visit www.WeCanStopTheHate.org.