Unmasking a Halloween controversy

This Halloween, I imagine that the Burlington community and UVM students alike will flock to the streets in throngs. Sporting their ghoulish garb, there will be the expected mix of witches, werewolves and other Halloween favorites. One ensemble that may be worn by the funny guy two doors down from you could involve an orange jumpsuit. The classic inmate costume? Well, not quite. A good guess would most definitely be convicted criminal.     That is, until you notice the black lettering on the front of his bright one piece that reads “Illegal Alien.”At this point, you will surely take into account the fake “green” card he holds and ridiculous alien mask atop his head.The company Forum Novelties Inc. recently released its “illegal alien” outfit to store chains across the country, including Walgreens and Target.The outfit has been received with an appalling popularity in stores and on the web.Upon discovering this costume, I took a moment to really take in the idea. I was left with a thorough shock that the company that came up with the idea was interested in making a mockery of such an important issue.As comical as such a getup may initially seem for Halloween, the negative implications quickly outweigh the humor. In fact, the joke has grown old quite fast for many of immigrant rights groups across the nation. A number of them, including the L.A.-based Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights, argue Forum Novelties’ costume idea is a tasteless blow to the growing problem of illegal immigrants in America today.Vendors such as Walgreens and Target have pulled the costume from their shelves, justifying that their initial intent was never to offend any customers or organizations. Pulling the costume from store shelves is a great idea and should be commended.Using an alien mask to depict an “illegal alien” dehumanizes immigrants in a crude manner. Ultimately, I pity, but worry little, over the fool who bought the “illegal alien” costume in hopes of stirring up some Halloween laughs this Saturday. Really, I fret over a costume company that had no better ideas this holiday season than to resort to the level of poking fun at illegal immigration. What, then, will be their grand costume idea next October?Next time Forum Novelties Inc. decides to cross the line, they should try to do so without contradicting themselves: an “illegal alien” is no longer illegal if they own a green card.