LAKE WORTH BEACH – The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is investigating vandalism in Wanda Lake Beach in central Guatemala in May as a possible hate crime.
When workers arrived in downtown at 430 North G Street on Thursday morning, they found a spray-painted swastika building in front of the door.
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There were also two messages spray-painted on the building: “The vote will not stop us this time” and “God bless America”.
The Guatemalan House Center has been providing services to immigrant families, including undocumented workers, for three decades.
Lucia Barnes, deputy director of the center, said her staff and volunteers were shocked and concerned about their safety.
“Should we, God forbid, be ready to shoot or something like that?” Barnes said. “It’s a very scary situation.”
PBSO spokeswoman Teri Barbera confirmed that the case is under investigation. He added that accusations of vandalism can increase hate crime, which increases the punishment for a crime if the victim is treated for race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability.
Barnes said the center, which is almost entirely managed by grants and donations, has no cameras on the property or private security.
“We don’t have the resources,” he said.
The center helps 1,000 families a month, although all services are now being provided over the phone following a coronavirus pandemic. Although most of the applicants are from Guatemala or other Central American countries, the center also works with immigrants from other parts of the world, including Sri Lanka, Israel and India.
“I’m afraid of them,” said Barnes of the center’s clients, staff and volunteers. “If someone comes here, what are we going to do?”
Barnes has been working at the center since August, but no one remembers targeting it before.
On Thursday afternoon, the graffiti remained on the wall of the building. Barnes said the center worked with a nearby paint shop to cover the swastika and written messages.
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