Prof. Geoffrey A. Hoffman took instant umbrage when the Houston Chronicle reported that charity toy drives had considered checking the immigration status of children before distributing toys for the holidays. His letter to the editor appeared in the Houston Chronicle on December 6, 2009:
Message is clear
I am writing in response to the two articles published in the Houston Chronicle concerning toy drives and the checking of immigration status (“Some nonprofits want to ensure that aid goes to people legally in U.S.,” Page A1, Tuesday, and “Toy drives insist they reject no one,” Page B1, Wednesday). Although the latest article suggests that the two organizations have backed off and do not actually follow through with checking immigration status before handing out their toys, the damage has been done. All that needs to happen is that a perception in the community be created so that the parents of these children become fearful and believe that the possibility may exist that their status will be checked. Such a perception now exists. Therefore, a chilling effect has now been put in place. It is despicable that a toy drive, if in fact this was actually their intention, would condition the giving of toys based on a recipient's immigration status. The message is clear as a bell: Immigrant children do not warrant toys or, perhaps more troubling, that U.S. citizen children with parents who happen to be undocumented do not warrant toys. Such a message flies in the face of not only the spirit of the holiday season but also the values that made and make our country great. There is an undercurrent of anger toward immigrants in this country. However, I submit that anger is misdirected. Let's redirect our gaze back at ourselves and our own values and ask each other — is that what America is all about? Is this a place where we look for ways to detain and deport immigrant children and their parents or is this a place where we give gifts without regard to a person's skin color, race, religion or immigration status.
Geoffrey A. Hoffman, Clinical associate professor, University of Houston Immigration Clinic