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Journal editorial cartoon sparks controversy

SANTA FE – An editorial cartoon published in the Journal came under fire Wednesday from elected officials – including both of New Mexico’s U.S. senators – and others for being “misguided” and “bigoted.”

The syndicated cartoon showed an apparently frightened white couple being accosted at gunpoint by members of MS-13, an international criminal gang targeted by President Donald Trump whose members are primarily from Central America.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat who is running for re-election this year, lambasted the cartoon on social media, while state Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, described it as an example of “ignorance, racism and hatred.”

Heinrich tweeted: “Shame on the @ABQJournal for stooping to a new low and publishing a heinous and bigoted depiction of Dreamers in today’s paper that serves only to sow division in our community.”

His tweet sparked dozens of comments, many of which agreed with his sentiment. Some disagreed, with one saying: “They’re a newspaper. They’re supposed to publish a full range of viewpoints.”

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., also weighed in on Twitter: “Words and images are still hateful and offensive, even when they appear in a cartoon. The @ABQJournal should apologize.”

The cartoon, by Sean Delonas, syndicated by CagleCartoons.com, depicts a man telling his wife as they’re being accosted by a gang member and a terrorist: “Now Honey … I believe they prefer to be called ‘Dreamers’ … or future Democrats …”

Dreamers are young adults who were born in other countries and were brought to the United States as children without documentation, typically by family members.

Their situation has been the subject of ongoing debate on Capitol Hill, as Trump has announced he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, authorized by former President Barack Obama, which protected an estimated 689,000 young adults from deportation.

The program is scheduled to expire March 5.

Editorially, the Journal has supported a path to citizenship for the country’s estimated 1.8 million Dreamers.

Journal Editor Karen Moses issued a statement late Wednesday that said: “Our editorial pages offer views from all sides of the spectrum, and we realize some of the content will offend readers.

“We do not agree with many of those views, but their purpose is to spark discussion and debate. In hindsight, instead of generating debate, this cartoon only inflamed emotions. This was not the intent, nor does the Journal condone racism or bigotry in any form.”

Editorial cartoons are selected by the editorial board, which is separate from the newsroom and its reporters.

At the Roundhouse, Lopez issued a letter via Senate Democrats on Wednesday that blasted the editorial cartoon as outrageous and unacceptable.

“Ignorance and intolerance stifle the development of any healthy society and such attributes in the editorial cartoon are not in the welcoming spirit of true New Mexicans,” said Lopez, who serves as the chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee.

New Mexico has the largest percentage of Hispanic residents in the nation – about 47 percent as of the last census – and Lopez cited the state’s diversity in her statement.

She also described the cartoon as an example of the “ignorance, racism and hatred” that has permeated the country since Trump’s election.

In describing her rationale for choosing to publish the editorial, Editorial Page Editor D’Val Westphal said that what first struck her was the topic of MS-13 gang members, their presence in New Mexico and the havoc they wreak on a community.

“I read the cartoon as the muggers being clearly labeled as MS-13, and the conservative Anglo couple – with red tie and red purse, i.e. red state – reacting out of fear and labeling their attackers as ‘Dreamers’ and even Democrats,” Westphal said. “In my mind, it shows that fear and ignorance allow some groups to paint all with a broad brush.”

“We live in a very politicized and reactionary time,” she added. “But the mission of an editorial page is to explore all sides of an issue, to make people think and debate and examine closely the opposing view of an argument.

“Unfortunately, this cartoon did not inspire that kind of discussion.”

Among those who expressed outrage Wednesday on Twitter was Isaac De Luna, who works with young immigrants. He said the newspaper was enabling hate. The Journal, he said, “openly displayed #racism & #Discrimination! Simply disgusting!”

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