New Mexico Newspaper Apologizes for Cartoon Portraying ‘Dreamers’ as Muggers

New Mexico Newspaper Apologizes for Cartoon Portraying ‘Dreamers’ as Muggers

Originally published by The NY Times

The editor of one of New Mexico’s leading newspapers, The Albuquerque Journal, issued an apology on Thursday over an editorial cartoon that many people interpreted as a bigoted attack on Hispanics.

Prompting outrage from prominent Democrats and Republicans in the state, the cartoon, by Sean Delonas, depicts a white couple being accosted in a back alley by three men. One is holding the couple at gunpoint and taking the woman’s purse. Another is wearing a jacket emblazoned with “MS-13,” the name of a gang that President Trump and others have repeatedly invoked to denounce illegal immigration. The third has on a ski mask and a suicide vest of smoking explosives.

The male victim tells the woman, “Now, honey ... I believe they prefer to be called ‘Dreamers,’” a reference to young undocumented immigrantspredominantly from Latin America, and adds, “Or future Democrats.”


The cartoon, which was published on Wednesday, quickly elicited criticism around New Mexico, where about 48.5 percent of the population is Hispanic, the highest percentage of any state in the country. Tensions have simmered in the state, which Mr. Trump lost in the 2016 election, over the federal government’s immigration policies.

Karen Moses, the editor of The Albuquerque Journal, said in her apology that the cartoon “appeared to us to be poking at President Trump’s rhetoric by portraying a quaking Republican couple who were painting Dreamers with a broad, totally false, brush.”

But Mr. Delonas, the cartoonist, said that while he sympathized with Ms. Moses, he disagreed with her assessment of the illustration.

“That’s not the way I read it,” said Mr. Delonas, 56, a former cartoonist at The New York Post. “I’ve learned that MS-13 is purposely sending minors over here to commit crimes. I’m pretty sure that the cartels are using minors for a lot of their drug dealing.”

Mr. Delonas emphasized that he believed immigrants should come legally to the United States. The cartoon was published after Mr. Trump contended in his State of the Union speech that undocumented immigrants “have caused the loss of innocent lives,” and focused specifically on MS-13, a gang formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s by refugees fleeing El Salvador’s civil war.

Mr. Trump’s positioning has drawn sharp rebukes from critics who argue that most immigrants have nothing to do with gangs. Meanwhile, members of Congress have been unable to forge protections for the so-called Dreamers, who were brought to the United States illegally as children. In September, Mr. Trump suspended an Obama-era initiative to protect them from deportation.

New Mexico’s entire congressional delegation, including Representative Steve Pearce, a conservative Republican, and Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, both Democrats, issued a joint statement calling the cartoon “racist and divisive.”

Responding to a request for comment, Ms. Moses referred to her apology, which was included in a statement published on The Journal’s website. In that statement, she said journalists in her newsroom did not have a role in deciding which cartoons to publish, a decision left to the editorial board.

“There obviously will be another story tomorrow, as we treat this controversy as we would with any newsworthy controversy,” Ms. Moses added in an email.

Mr. Delonas is no stranger to controversy. In 2009, the media magnate Rupert Murdoch issued a personal apology over a cartoon by Mr. Delonas of a chimpanzee that was interpreted by some as a racist attack on President Barack Obama.

Mr. Delonas said he did not know if any other newspapers aside from The Journal had published his latest cartoon.

Daryl Cagle, the publisher of Cagle Cartoons, which syndicates Mr. Delonas’s work, said that more than half of daily, paid-circulation newspapers in the United States subscribe to the company’s service, but that he did not know how many other newspapers had published the cartoon.

“I’m not surprised that this cartoon sparks outrage,” Mr. Cagle said by email. “It is up to each newspaper editor to decide what is appropriate to run in their own newspaper. My personal view is that I agree with the critics of Sean’s cartoon.”

In addition to criticism from subscribers, political leaders and immigration advocates, The Journal faced outrage on Thursday from some members of its own staff.

Roberto Rosales, a photographer for the newspaper who is from El Salvador, said on Twitter that he condemns MS-13. But he added: “How do you think this cartoon makes me feel? Pathetic!”

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