Oct. 31, 2009 -- Here's a possible candidate for most offensive Halloween costume this year: the illegal alien.
Civil rights and anti-discrimination activists are up in arms over the "Illegal Alien Adult Costume," manufactured by Forum Novelties.
The costume includes an outer space alien mask, an orange jumpsuit with the words "Illegal Alien" across the chest and a fake green card.
After receiving complaints about the costume, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles wrote a letter to retailers asking them to stop selling the item. Executive director Angelica Salas called it "distasteful, mean-spirited, and ignorant of social stigmas and current debate on immigration reform," according to The Associated Press.
Some retailers, such as Target, have stopped selling the costume.
"This costume was previously available online at Target.com -- the illegal alien costume was never available in our physical stores. It's a costume that we removed about two weeks ago. As a result of after receiving a couple of concerned phone calls from our guests," said Joshua Thomas, a spokesman for Target.
"We apologize, it was not meant to be part of our original assortment, and as soon as we were made aware of the fact that it was available for sale on our Web site, we removed it," Thomas said.
But some retailers are selling the costume anyways.
While a spokesperson from Hollywoodexpress.com says they do not sell the illegal alien costume, but they do carry the "Illegal Alien Mask," which is described as an "almond-eyed, latex, UFO-look[ing] alien with large black mustache and baseball cap attached."
"As for whether or not this particular mask is 'offensive,' I suppose it depends on your point of view. The reality is we carry all sorts of costumes which some people may view to be 'offensive,'" Brad Butler, spokesman for Hollywoodexpress.com, wrote ABCNews.com in an e-mail. He used as an example the "Barakula" mask, a latex mask combining President Obama with a dracula.
Someone's Costume Fun Is Another's Displeasure
Butler said he was not personally aware of any complaints to their store about the illegal alien mask.
"As far as complaints are concerned, each season we receive a very small number of complaints about various costumes displayed on our website. By a wide margin, however, we receive more complaints about the 'sexy' costume selection -- which also happen to be some of the top sellers," wrote Butler.
"The reality is that all of these costumes sell well so they're apparently what consumers want. Seasonal costume manufacturers are hyper sensitive to the market. They're quick to make adjustments in their product line when items don't sell," Butler added. "Consumers truly 'vote' with their pocket book in this business."
Hollywoodexpress.com has sold 109 of the masks online, thanks mostly to the media, Butler said. The "Barakula" mask has sold about 10 times that amount, he added.
The Americans for Legal Immigration political action committee (ALIPAC), a private group whose mission includes "fighting against illegal immigration and amnesty for illegal aliens," launched a media campaign encouraging people to buy the costume online.
"Why is it that a few illegal alien supporters can get a global corporation like Target to remove all illegal alien costumes from their stores with a few calls but the over two hundred million Americans constituting the over 80% of us who want illegal aliens out of America make millions of calls to Congress and the President to no avail?" said Gheen in an Oct. 18 press release on the group's Web site.
"If someone really wanted to dress up as an illegal alien, they should dress up like President Obama's illegal alien Aunt Zeituni Onyango in Boston and hold a welfare check instead of a fake green card!" the press release quotes Gheen, who offered to conduct TV interviews wearing the illegal alien costume.
"Fox & Friends" show host Steve Doocy called the costume a joke.
"Where's your sense of humor America?" he said Oct. 19.
But the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) says "illegal alien" is a pejorative term and should never be used to identify undocumented workers.
'Illegal Alien' Term Should Be Denounced, Says Watchdog Group
The NAHJ says on its Web site, "Many find the term [illegal alien] offensive and dehumanizing because it criminalizes the person rather than the actual act of illegally entering or residing in the United States. The term does not give an accurate description of a person's conditional U.S. status, but rather demeans an individual by describing them as an alien."
But Butler said all the negative attention the costume has received could have the opposite effect and prolong its availability on the market.
"As for whether or not it will be back next year, I don't know. It depends on the overall sales by all retailers. My guess is that it will be back if for no other reason than the press it's getting. Sales for this item weren't nearly as good until the story re: Target broke," he wrote.