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Albuquerque Journal apologizes for cartoon depicting ‘dreamers’ mugging white couple

By Samantha Schmidt, Washington Post
Published: February 9, 2018 Updated: February 9, 2018 at 08:52 AM

Readers of the Albuquerque Journal opened up the opinion section on Wednesday to find a provocative, racially-tinged cartoon.

The syndicated cartoon, by artist Sean Delonas, depicts a terrified-looking white couple being mugged at gunpoint by members of the criminal gang MS-13. A man beside them is seen carrying bombs, along with a bloody knife.

"Now, honey," a word bubble from the white man reads. "I believe they prefer to be called Ďdreamers,í . . . or future Democrats."

The cartoonís publication prompted a wave of outrage from immigrant advocates, bipartisan lawmakers and hundreds of readers. It also came at a particularly tense time in the national immigration debate, as Democrats in Congress continue to seek protections for "dreamers," young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Temporary protection from deportation for these immigrants through the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is set to expire next month.

Wow. This insanely racist cartoon ran today in the @ABQJournal, my hometown newspaper and the first place I ever worked. The paper has always had a conservative editorial board, but this is next-level.

— Kate Linthicum (@katelinthicum) February 8, 2018

WOW!! Albuquerque Journal publishes a cartoon straight out of the Third Reich. This is vile.

— marymcnamara (@marymcnamara) February 8, 2018

More Context On Racist Cartoon Choice By The Stupid Morons At The Albuquerque Journal.

— Our Revolution NM (@OurRevolutionNM) February 9, 2018

Donald J. Trump is emboldening racists and xenophobes. The Albuquerque Journal ran this xenophobic cartoon about "Dreamers." In it, Dreamers are portrayed as robbers and terrorists. Shame!

— UndocuBlack Network (@UndocuBlack) February 8, 2018

The Albuquerque Journal had this Editorial Cartoon in yesterday's paper.... thoughts? #Dreamers

— Natassja Leyba (@NatassjaLeyba) February 8, 2018

Late Wednesday, the editor of the Albuquerque Journal issued an apology, saying that while the mission of the editorial page is to spark debate, "this cartoon only inflamed emotions." Following continued criticism, the editor, Karen Moses, published an expanded apology Thursday morning.

"I do not presume to know what cartoonist Sean Delonas was trying to convey in his cartoon that was published in Wednesdayís Albuquerque Journal," Moses wrote. "But on one level it appeared to us to be poking at President Trumpís rhetoric by portraying a quaking Republican couple who were painting Dreamers with a broad, totally false, brush."

"Instead, many saw an extremely objectionable cartoon and thought that was the position of the Journal," Moses added. "It is not."

Instead of generating debate, this cartoon only inflamed emotions. This was not the intent, and for that, the Journal apologizes.

— Albuquerque Journal (@ABQJournal) February 8, 2018

The apology did not appear to quell critics, as dozens of people protested outside the newspaperís offices on Thursday evening, the Albuquerque Journal reported. One protester, Margarita Maestas, even walked into the newsroom to cancel her 17-year subscription, according to the Journal. "It labeled our Dreamers as criminals," she said.

Even journalists on staff at the Journal, who work independently of the editorial staff, condemned the decision to publish the cartoon. Roberto E. Rosales, a Journal photojournalist, tweeted: "As a photojournalist from El Salvador who by the way condemns MS-13, and works at ABQJournal how do you think this cartoon makes me feel? Pathetic!"

As a photojournalist from El Salvador who by the way condemns MS-13, and works at @ABQJournal how do you think this cartoon makes me feel? Pathetic!

— Roberto E. Rosales (@rosalesquique) February 8, 2018

Earlier in the day, state lawmakers dedicated a half-hour to criticizing the cartoon on the New Mexico Senate floor.

Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, a Republican, said the cartoon was "wrong." "Iím offended as a Republican, and Iím offended as a conservative, that they would try to depict Democrats as thugs and terrorists," Sanchez said, according to the Journal.

Members of New Mexicoís congressional delegation also issued a statement condemning the cartoon as feeding into "vitriol" at a time when lawmakers are seeking an immigration compromise.

"It plays to the most false and negative stereotype of ĎDreamers,í which can only serve to enrage extremists," the statement read. "Instead of highlighting some middle ground that could be fertile for agreement, this cartoon pushes the two sides further into their respective corners."

The letter was signed by New Mexico Democratic Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich; Democratic Reps. Ben Ray LujŠn and Michelle Lujan Grisham and Republican Rep. Stevan Pearce; New Mexico Democratic Attorney General Hector Balderas and a number of immigrant advocacy groups.

Read our statement on the racist political cartoon about DREAMers that appeared in the Albuquerque Journal:

— Tom Udall (@SenatorTomUdall) February 8, 2018

Delonas, 56, a cartoonist for the New York Postís Page Six from 1990 to 2013, is currently syndicated by CagleCartoons, and his cartoons have appeared worldwide. He is no stranger to controversy or cartoons that elicit outrage.

One of his cartoons, published in the New York Post in 2009, was deemed particularly offensive. In it, two law enforcement officers are depicted shooting the body of a chimpanzee. The word bubble says, "Theyíll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."

As one Vanity Fair writer put it: "Iím struggling to find an interpretation of this that doesnít odiously compare Obama, who just signed the stimulus bill yesterday, to a monkey, resorting to one of the most wretched racist stereotypes."

That cartoonís publication even elicited a rare apology from Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of News Corporation, which owns the New York Post. He apologized "to any reader who felt offended, and even insulted."

"It was not meant to be racist, but unfortunately, it was interpreted by many as such," Murdoch said.

Speaking to the Journal, Delonas said he sees unchecked illegal immigration as a threat to public safety and wages.

"Iím not saying they canít come in; they have to come in legally, and they have to be vetted," Delonas, who is based in Pennsylvania, said. "I think you can call them Dreamers, but I kind of agree with Trump that Americans have Dreams, too."

His statement paralleled one made by President Donald Trump during his State of the Union address. Trump lamented crime from MS-13 and other gangs, which he blamed on "open borders." He sought to repurpose the term "dreamer" by saying American citizens have seen their economic prospects dimmed and personal safety put at risk because of illegal immigration.On Facebook, Delonas appeared to take pride in being, once again, at the center of a heated controversy.

"Today, U.S. Senators and state lawmakers (all Democrats) from New Mexico took time out of their busy pay-to-play schedules to condemn me," he wrote. "Always enjoyed upsetting politicians, makes me feel like Iím back at the NY Post."