Mocking Immigrant Children is a New Low, Even for The Richmond Times-Dispatch

by | Jun 21, 2018 | OPINION

Today’s print edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch features an editorial cartoon mocking the separation of families at the southern border, and I am utterly outraged. Unless you think the forced separation of children from their parents is somehow acceptable, featuring this cartoon is absolutely disgraceful. 

The audacity of Richmond’s major newspaper to publish a cartoon poking fun at a situation, which has seen over 2,300 children removed from their parents, diminishes the very real pain of these families and attempts to normalize inhumane “zero tolerance” immigration policies. Showing a cartoon as low as this one is not only a blow to the immigrant persona, but is also an attempt to “other” the experience of immigrants who are seeking asylum from violence.

Mayor Stoney even tweeted a photo of the cartoon and called the image “shameful.”

The cartoon suggests to families attempting to cross the border one piece of advice that might ultimately “solve” this crisis; “Step 1: Stay Away” and underneath it, reads, “The End.” To suggest that a crisis as major as this one could be solved by a two-word, eight-letter proposition is a pitiful oversimplification of a very serious, complex problem. The most ironic part? I wonder how many refugees and illegal immigrants wouldn’t have to flee their countries if the U.S. hadn’t destabilized nations by propping up right-wing dictators in favor of U.S. interests; for example, U.S.-backed Guatemalan President Jacob Árbenz and the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua.

I am ashamed that something so ignorant and racist would be published in a newspaper associated with my city; a city that claims to be progressive. 

RTD tweeted in response to the immense amount of public disapproval the cartoon received. The tweet reads, “There’s been much social media chatter about a cartoon on the #RTD editorial page implying immigrants can avoid illegally entering the country. We publish many columns, editorials, and cartoons that criticize Trump’s immigration policies and support immigration. We love balance!”


Let’s get one thing straight here: this cartoon is not “balance.” This cartoon is xenophobic, shameful, and pathetic. It renders the situation of these immigrant families as invalid and oversimplified. What is there to joke about when thousands of immigrant children are being ripped from their families and left to live in cages?

Placing ridicule on children who have lost their parents and been forced apart from their families by this country’s administration is absolutely horrifying. The United States of America has been at the forefront of traumatizing tens of thousands of immigrant children crossing the border and part of RTD’s response is a cartoon mocking them? This cartoon was published in the editorial section of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which I acknowledge is a separate entity from the paper as a whole. However, publishing this content in print shows a serious lack of judgment and a tone deafness we have come to expect from RTD.

Our nation is housing children in converted Walmarts and letting them sleep in cages with foil blankets. There are recordings of young children crying for their parents from tent camps. Absolutely nothing is funny about this crisis. And to ridicule thousands of families fleeing horrifying circumstances is cruel and uncalled for.

I am disappointed, frustrated, and downright insulted that this content would ever be published in Richmond’s newspaper. It is impossible to say the illustrator of this cartoon has any idea what compassion or true American ideals are. The US consistently prides itself on equality, justice, and acceptance, but when its citizens see no problem mocking suffering children, is it really our place to take pride in those ideals anymore?

Saffeya Ahmed

Saffeya Ahmed

Saffeya Ahmed is a senior at VCU studying journalism and political science. Enjoys painting, writing poems, and watching Friends.

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