Just when we thought American xenophobes couldn't stoop any lower, when their mean-spirited behavior couldn't be any more repulsive, two New Jersey radio shock jocks are seeking to reach a new low.
The two jocks, knows as "The Jersey Guys," are calling on their listeners to rat on illegal immigrants, as if they were doing a service to society by promoting cruelty against other human beings. They are exhorting their listeners to report neighbors, strangers and "anyone suspicious" to the immigration authorities or to their misguided radio station, WKXW, 101.5 FM in Trenton.
But their hate-mongering campaign is clearly much more than just an affront to illegal immigrants. Many of the state's 1 million Latinos are very offended.
The radio campaign is called "La Cucha Gotcha," which is a play on the Spanish word "cucaracha," meaning cockroach. When they encourage their listeners to report suspected illegal immigrants, who could easily be non-Latinos, they play mariachi music in the background, and they claim the bigoted drive will last until the Cinco de Mayo Mexican holiday.
It is clearly a sick effort to draw attention, as well as a cheap publicity stunt to raise the program's ratings.
Some New Jersey Latinos argue that the best thing to do with these two characters is to ignore them. They say that most Americans are much more compassionate than these attention-hungry clowns, and that Latinos should not give them a platform on which to seek fame.
But other Latinos say the radio campaign may lead to harassment of Hispanics who are here legally — including American citizens — because xenophobes are being encouraged to report anyone simply because they may "look suspicious."
New Jersey's Hispanic leaders say the campaign could encourage racial profiling and incite violence against Latinos. They say it is "poisonous," "despicable" and "idiotic."
"The broad-brush characterization against Latinos by 'The Jersey Guys' dehumanizes a portion of our state's population," said New Jersey State Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo, in a press conference where Latinos condemned the radio program. "And it fosters hate."
In spite of the protests, the two jocks — Craig Carton and Ray Rossi — have refused to apologize or stop their inflammatory rhetoric, forcing Latino leaders to organize a boycott of the show's advertisers.
Nevertheless, The Jersey Guys held an on-air press conference, in which they said the name of the campaign is irrelevant. "The program is to get rid of illegal immigrants because they are a danger to our country," Carton said.
He went on to display remarkable ignorance, blaming illegal immigrants for New Jersey's high property taxes and violent crime. He even insinuated that illegal immigrants are more likely to become terrorists.
"If you're here illegally, you are breaking the law — no better, no worse than the guy who robs the liquor store or the guy who waits to case your house out and robs you of your belongings," Carton said. "You are a criminal."
In fact, you are not!
Right-wing extremists tried to turn them into criminals in Congress last year, but they failed. In fact, coming into the country illegally is equivalent to failing to pay a parking ticket. It doesn't make you a criminal.
Amazingly, these two radio vigilantes don't realize that the last thing immigration authorities want is to get inundated with calls from people who simply "suspect" that someone is an illegal immigrant. The Department of Homeland Security has repeatedly stated that it wants to go after real criminals — terrorists or people who have violated a court order to leave the country — not every decent, hard-working immigrant who is only trying to put food on the dinner table.
"We don't apologize for any aspect of this project," Carton said, demonstrating — in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty — the kind of intolerance and xenophobic bitterness that is making some Americans forget our immigrant heritage, and tearing this country apart.
To find out more about Miguel Perez, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.