The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

The FAIR Files: Marielitos are ‘Criminals, Homosexuals, and Mentally Defective Persons’

By Heidi Beirich on July 23, 2010 - 8:40 am, Posted in Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Latino

Sometimes, pictures really are worth a thousand words.

In the 1980s, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) — a restrictionist group that insists it is not bigoted despite a small mountain of evidence to the contrary — put out an untitled, undated booklet of cartoons that featured on the cover what looks like Fidel Castro strangling the Statue of Liberty and lighting his cigar in the flaming torch she holds.

Not surprisingly, given FAIR’s track record of demonizing immigrants, the group’s pamphlet is filled with provocative drawings by professional cartoonists that are accompanied by often bigoted or defamatory subtitles written by FAIR. FAIR’s commentary is particularly vicious when discussing refugees who arrived in South Florida from Cuba during the 1980 Mariel boatlift.

In the graphic below, FAIR presents the Marielitos as “Havana Defectos” and described them as “40,000 criminals, homosexuals, and mentally defective persons,” a phrase that is remarkably similar to the Nazis’ descriptions of their own enemies. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this kind of thing from FAIR. In 1990, a board member of FAIR’s legal arm used nearly identical language to describe the Marielitos.

Havana Defectos

Here, Miami is depicted as looted and destroyed by the Marielitos. In the accompanying commentary, FAIR blames the Cubans for causing “chaos and crime” that “crippled Florida’s tourist trade.” But the reality is that only about 2%, or 2,746, of the 125,000 refugees were ultimately determined to be serious or violent criminals. Large numbers, in fact, were simply people who disagreed with aspects of the Castro regime. Economist David Carr also found that the boatlift entailed no negative effect on wages for any groups in Miami.


And here is yet another example of FAIR’s anti-Cuban fear-mongering. FAIR claims that other countries see our “inability to control our borders as a weakness to be exploited.”

El Yahoo

Other parts of FAIR’s booklet portray undocumented immigrants as a tidal waving swamping the U.S. or as mooches on the system who siphon up social services. This depiction comes regardless of the fact that most economic studies have found a net economic benefit to the U.S. from immigration.

Alien Wave

In another cartoon, FAIR makes the claim that Spanish-speakers are destroying economic opportunity for black Miamians. “Employers prefer to hire Spanish-speaking employees who can communicate with Spanish-speaking customers,” FAIR alleges. Sowing discord between minority groups is a tactic FAIR has used more than once. At one point, FAIR even organized a fake front group called Choose Black America (CBA) that supposedly represented blacks concerned about immigration. FAIR paid for CBA’s “members” to attend their first — and only — press conference and the group’s spokesman was a white employee of FAIR. The group quickly fell apart and is now defunct.

Leaving Miami

The pamphlet ends with a cartoon that suggests the U.S. will be inundated with life forms from throughout the universe — a graphic that more or less sums up the intensely xenophobic, bigoted ideas that animate America’s largest and most powerful nativist organization.

  • beholder

    Ruben good point.

    I’ve been hearing from immigrant community members in my locale that the Republicans are losing Latinos for this reason. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s been going on for a while — the 1980s definitely had a lot of pro-Reagan Latinos, but after Clinton I’m not sure if that holds true any more as much as it did. I’ve definitely heard more anti-Republican talk than pro-Obama though lately, so it’s clear this issue is turning moderates off.

    Of course I’m no position to gauge how many people are thinking this way, but if the best the GOP can do is turn red and have a blood vessel beating on their forehead talking about “illegal invaders” destroying white culture, at the same time as they’re blocking the kinds of policies that help middle class families stay afloat in our troubled economy, I’d say there’s not much hope for bringing out the Latino voters in droves.

    At the very least I haven’t seen any immigrant families come out in support of the GOP proposals, even the ones who feel very strongly about curtailing unauthorized immigration. This issue is one that makes the link between the hard right and racists most visible and it’s not an easy problem to ignore, especially when you can feel the racial tension in your skin.

  • ruben

    ain’t this ironic! most cubans swear by the right wing agenda and now they are being slandered and thrown under the bus by the people they think are there friends.with friends like these you don’t need enemies.

  • Carter

    Peter, Just my opinion but I believe you have a very wholesome idea (s) and that your motivation is a productive one.
    Dialog, the calming of fear, & the realistic appraisal of both issues of concern & common decency are what will eventually make a difference.
    Name calling on either side of an issue and trepidation re: the unknown is a breeding ground for narrow mindedness and simplistic solutions for complex problems.

    Both the US & Mexico face complex problems.Mexico’s economy & possibilities of upward mobility are serious & deep seated problems.

    Mexico has used temporary (& permanent) immigration as a safety valve for a greatly dissatisfied population. To prevent a distinct possibility of civil unrest & political upheaval due to continued corruption in government and a very wide margin between the “haves” & “have-nots”: that “safety valve” will not close anytime soon.
    Further, the exploitation of both migrant workers and indigenous labor brought about by several international “trade agreements” have benefited private corporate fiefdoms to the exclusion of the various nations as a whole.
    Unfortunately this issue has been brought about by BOTH political parties in the USA. If some folks did their homework they would have found that powerful multi- national corporations have a long history of contributions to BOTH political parties. As disillusioning as that may sound it’s the unfortunate truth. {Documentation can be found via contribution reporting laws available through the GAO.}
    A wise man once said “you can’t be disillusioned if you don’t have illusions in the first place”.

    In times past, guy and gals from Mexico have come north to attempt to get away from a locked economic climate & corruption that breeds injustice. Now that we are getting a taste of that ourselves, we are reacting with fear toward a people. – A foolish error, as the person is not responsible for a infinitely more vast phenomenon.

    The biggest mis-label is the term “middle-class”. The US is rapidly becoming a country of a very, very limited middle class. The proper economic label is “working class”; one who does not own the means of production & may be a few paychecks away from serious poverty.
    Our neighbor to the south knows virtually no middle class – has not for generations & has been a controlled political powder keg for just as long.

  • Peter Blaise

    I found a way we can enter the anti-immigration and anti-civil-rights dialog.

    On Facebook, many anti-rights groups create Discussion pages that are free and open to all to open dialog.

    I encourage us all to find and share on these before they lock them down.

    My goal is to connect with such fearful people and encourage them to care more deeply about what the effect of their proposals means for us all — deep deep suffering.

    Here’s a sample Facebook discussion page, please keep searching for more, and spread your connections with fearful people to encourage tolerance:

    There are more — keep looking.

    Love and hugs,
    Peter Blaise

  • skinnyminny

    I don’t think ‘someone has been watching Scarface way too many times!’ I remember during this time in Los Angeles, near MacArthur Park, in the Rampart Division of Los Angeles Police Department, there were rumors that the police had orders to not to try to arrest the Cubans but shoot them because they were labeled as too dangerous.

    If my memory serves me correctly, wasn’t it just recent (presidential elections) that Tom Tancredo said Miami looks like a 3rd World, and didn’t Calif Gov. Schwarzenegger say that parts of Los Angeles looks like Mexico?

  • Geo

    Has any body ever heard of the Atlanta federal prison riot of 1987? They were as sane as a judge right? Would you invite 2,746 violent criminals to your house for dinner? I think not. On a side note, the Cubans, choosing to live amongst each other, settled in an area in Miami and created little Havana. Call it safety in numbers, call it a natural inclination, but lets call it what it is: Ethnic separation. The want to live and prosper among their collective folk. There’s nothing wrong with that…they did it in Cuba, they do it here. Viva Separation!

  • The BarbaryFalcon

    Looks like someone’s been watching Scarface way too many times.

  • Shadow Wolf

    Going out of my limb here, but I’m just curious as to why White Supremacists are so amused by satirical comics, anime and toons. Not sure as to why the self-described supreme aryan man are so well bent on cartoons. Its like their minds haven’t expanded beyond puberty, in terms of reading entertainment.

  • Mark

    The Muriel boatlift was 30 years ago (1980) and these cartoons are all republished from the mainstream press (charlotte observer, richmond news leader, phoenix gazette, hearst, fort myers news press) . Not to say FAIR doesnt have issues but this is weak cheese.

  • IludiumPhosdex

    To answer the question of “Paen,”

    Didn’t they hang Julus Striecher for crap like this at Nuremburg?


    For the record, Herr Streicher was the editor and publisher of Der Sturmer (The Attacker), a pornographically lurid tabloid weekly as was said to be Der Fuerher’s favourite reading thanks to its “written-so-you-can-understand-it” approach to anti-Semitism.

    Which, in its turn, only made the atrocities of the Holocaust all the more disgusting.

  • Paen

    Didn’t they hang Julus Striecher for crap like this at Nuremburg?