In Fort Myers on Sunday an anti-immigrants group will hold a rally to further their message. But undocumented immigrants face a more brutal attack in their everyday lives. They are often targeted by thieves for their cash. In Plant City ten days ago, one such attack led to murder. WMNF’s Roxanne Escobales reports.

The five Mexican immigrants who lived at the house on Laura Street in Plant City, worked six days a week as manual laborers in manufacturing and landscaping jobs. They all looked after each other. As was their custom, on Sunday, October 8th when Diogenes Vazquez arrived home that evening, his friend Jose Anaya had supper ready for the rest of the housemates. It was to be Jose’s last.

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Vazquez escaped through a window with a broken fingers and blood pouring down his face from a gash in the space between his eyebrows. He got help from neighbors and they called the police. Sargeant James Shultz of the Plant City Police Department:

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Activist Blanca Gonzalez of Immigrants United for Freedom held a vigil for Jose Anaya Wednesday night at the funeral home on Armenia Avenue in Tampa where family and friends of Anaya came for his viewing. She says that thieves commonly target Mexican immigrants.

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Jose Anaya had recently become an American citizen. Gonzalez believes that had it not been for his status and pressure from the media, the police would have held onto news of the crime. Sargeant Schultz says that’s an unfair charge. He said it took the Plant City Police Department three days to release any information on the case because it was so brutal.

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Blanca Gonzalez says she hears people talking about the attack at gas stations and in Plant City’s many Mexican grocery stores, like the the Mirasol on Collins Street. Herman Palafox moved here from Chapas, Mexico 13 years ago.

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Other Mexicans talked of robberies for cash and vehicles like bicycles and motorcycles as commonplace in certain Plant City neighborhoods, but none would go on record. Sargeant Schultz told WMNF that the police department did not think Hispanic immigrants were specifically targeted.

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Yet the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office says it is familiar with these types of crimes against the largely immigrant Hispanic community. Public information Officer J-D Callaway says the sheriff’s office faced a wave of these robberies this past summer in the University area of North Tampa. He knows of this type of crime happening in Wimauma and Dover.

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Once the Sheriff’s office realized it had a problem, it gave out fliers in Spanish telling the community how to protect itself and how to get help. More squad cars made a visible presence in the area, and the sheriff’s office made one thousand arrests in 8 weeks.

So far, Plant City Police arrested three men, charged with armed robbery, aggravated battery and first degree murder. The investigation continues.

For WMNF News in Plant City, I’m Roxanne Escobales.

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