"The High Cost of Harsh Words"

Combining the Times' opposition to enforcing immigration laws with a disturbingly cavalier attitude toward free speech, a Friday editorial, "The High Cost of Harsh Words," hinted that aNew YorkStatepolitician bore some responsbility for creating a hostile environment resulting in a murder of an immigrantin his jurisdiction. Politician Steve Levy's crime? Among other things, speaking out against illegal immigration.

Words have consequences. Steve Levy, the Suffolk County executive, is learning that the hard way during a horrible week. Seven teenagers were arrested and charged in the fatal stabbing last Saturday of Marcello Lucero, an Ecuadorean immigrant, on a street in the Long Island village of Patchogue.

The Times is careful not to directly link Levy and the murder, instead disingenuously lamenting how tragic it is that Levy is unable to provide comfort to his community because of his awful past actions and words. The Times pushed the two concepts close enough together (as it does in the headline) so readers can sense Levy somehow shares the blamefor the immigrant's death.

Mr. Levy's past harsh words and actions against undocumented workers have now left him cornered with a tragically limited ability to lead the county in confronting a brutal act that surely pains him as much as anyone.

Local lawmakers often complain about immigration, but Mr. Levy went much farther than most. He founded a national organization to lobby for crackdowns. He went on "Lou Dobbs." He tried to deputize county police to make immigration arrests and to rid the county work force of employees without papers. He sought to drive day laborers from local streets, yet rigidly opposed efforts to create hiring sites. Even as tensions simmered in places like Farmingville, a hot spot for anti-immigrant resentment, Mr. Levy would not budge.

He parroted extremist talking points, going so far as to raise the alarm, utterly false, that illegal immigrants' "anchor babies" were forcing Southampton Hospital to close its maternity ward. He denounces racist hatred, yet his words have made him a hero in pockets of Long Island where veins of racism run deep.

All that came back to haunt Mr. Levy this week, when an evil act underscored the need to draw together.

Levy isn't well-liked at the Times. A June 2007 story by reporter Paul Vitello painted Levy's stance against illegal immigration as black-and-white stridency:

"As the latest efforts to revamp immigration laws in Congress have disintegrated in a debate displaying a dozen shades of gray, Mr. Levy has held to a black-and-white assertion: Illegal immigration is illegal, and should be punished....At his most strident, Mr. Levy warns that the country's 'open borders' are an invitation to 'Fort Dix terrorists,' a reference to the six foreign-born men, three of them with expired visas, who were charged in May with plotting to attack an Army base in New Jersey.