Democratic Web Ad Angers Some Hispanics

The politics of ethnic outrage has taken an unusual turn, with Hispanic groups railing against a new Democratic Party ad that seemingly conflates terrorism and illegal immigration.

A Democratic political ad is under fire from Hispanics who say it unfairly compares Latino immigrants to terrorists. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee sponsored a 35-second ad on its Web site that shows footage of two people scaling a border fence mixed with images of Osama Bin Laden and North Korea President Kim Jong Il.

Pedro Celis, chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, said in a statement Tuesday that the DSCC should remove the ad because it vilifies illegal Hispanic immigrants and is “appalling.” Houston City Councilwoman Carol Alvarado, a Democrat, sent a letter to DSCC Chairman Sen. Charles Schumer of New York asking that the ad be pulled. She said it could alienate Latino voters. “To liken Latino immigrants to bazooka-toting terrorists not only undermines the positive relationship our party has with this community, but also lowers us to a despicable level as breeders of unfounded fear and hatred,” Alvarado wrote.

The ad opens with the words “Security Under Bush and GOP?” It features scenes of a masked man with a bazooka, scenes from terrorist attacks and police inspecting a subway train. It also shows Osama bin Laden, Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a docked ship as it claims “4 times as many terrorist attacks in 2005.” Then comes footage of a person climbing over a corrugated metal border fence and another preparing to climb it as the words “millions more illegal immigrants” form on-screen. In the following scene, viewers see the words “North Korea has quadrupled its nuclear arsenal” with footage of a tank and North Korea President Kim Jong Il. The ad ends with the words, “Feel safer? Vote for change.”


DSCC spokesman Phil Singer dismissed the group’s criticism as a Republican group “trying to gloss over the White House’s abysmal record on security.” “This group’s time would be better spent pressuring reluctant Republicans to support comprehensive immigration reform,” Singer said in an emailed statement.


The ad drew rebuke from other Hispanics. “This is the same kind of fear mongering we condemn in the extreme media and now we are seeing it at the DSCC,” said Lisa Navarrete, spokeswoman for the National Council of La Raza. “It’s appalling.”

While the RNHA is hardly an objective source on this, La Raza and others cited are typically pro-Democrat. I should note, too, that the ad is strangely missing from the URL given a the bottom of the story and is not presently among the numerous videos on the DSCC multimedia page.

While I’m clearly not the target audience of this ad, the text description of it sounds rather effective. The public fears terrorism, nuclear proliferation to rogue regimes, and an unfettered stream of illegal immigrants coming across the southern border. While the statistics are distorted and the president’s ability to do much about any of these things is debatable, it’s well within the bounds of political debate, let alone campaign spots.

Still, I’m always happy to this kind of pandering to people’s baser instincts backfire. David Weigel, in a post entitled, “Mexicans And Other Terrorists,” notes a bit of comedy in the AP piece linked above:

[T]he AP’s Suzanne Gamboa actually pressed the aggreived parties on whether they can prove the border-jumpers in the ad are Hispanic, and writes that “the faces of the people climbing over the fence are not clearly visible.” This is true, and someone could argue that the Democrats are making the “al Qaeda are crossing the Mexican border because trekking across a blazing desert is so much easier than overstaying a student visa” argument. Someone could argue that, if the ad didn’t scream “millions more illegal immigrants.” Someone can do a head count, but I don’t think the Bush administration has let in millions of illegals from Saudi Arabia and UAE.

Perhaps Mexicans are gateway illegals and then you move on to Arabs?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. The reason why you can’t find the video is explained here.

    Another Hispanic group replies here.

    While the Bush administration hasn’t let in millions from terror-sponsoring and terror-linked countries, they have caught tens of thousands of people from such countries crossing the border. Based on that, one can assume that tens of thousands were not caught.

    And, if you actually bother to think it through, you’ll see that having millions of foreign citizens in the U.S. is indeed a dangerous situation. What happens if they don’t get amnesty? Will they riot? Mexico has already obliquely threatened to agitate their citizens, and they may have used proxies to initiate some of the illegal immigration marches.

    Given all that, the Republican National Hispanic Assembly is beginning to sound like a group that puts their race ahead of their country.

  2. “Perhaps Mexicans are gateway illegals and then you move on to Arabs? ”

    James, I don’t always agree with you, but that line made me laugh out loud. Of course you are showing your racism when you used ‘Arabs’ and didn’t highlight the dangers of illegal Inuits.

  3. John Leach says:

    Perhaps we should revive a form of discrimination that protects the national security and safety of Americans. I don’t think the racial angle is valid compared to the cultural and political problems the Muslims are challenging us with. They aren’t Americans and they don’t want to be. So you are going to babble about racism? Get a brain.