By Antonio Zavala
CHICAGO -- ABC television's "Homeland Security USA," a reality show about the work of the U.S. Border Patrol and other elements of the Department of Homeland Security, has sparked an outcry from Hispanics for portraying Latinos as the "bad guys."
The program supposedly has unprecedented access to such agencies as Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Transportation Security Administration.
The show, which airs every Tuesday at 8 p.m. EST, is directed by Arnold Shapiro, an Oscar and Emmy winner who previously turned out "Scared Straight" and "Big Brother."
"They're ordinary men and women working against an epic landscape," Shapiro said when presenting the show to the press. "They have a job that is dangerous, difficult and always unpredictable. What viewers will see is powerful, dramatic, amazing and emotional, with unexpected moments of humor."
But activists of the Hispanic community describe the program as "xenophobic and full of racial stereotypes."
The Southern California Immigration Coalition has organized a protest for this Sunday in Burbank in front of the national offices of ABC and the Walt Disney Company, the network's corporate parent.
"This program offends the Hispanic community," coalition spokesman Roy Lopez said. "The program paints Hispanics as the bad guys of the story."
Lopez asks whether the program would have the same acceptance level if all the suspects and people under arrest were "Anglos."
"In the first program of the series the agents had a family thrown down on the floor at gunpoint and the kids crying," Lopez said. "Although in the end it turned out to be a mistake, the whole family had already been terrorized."
Lopez said that more than 24 organizations will protest in front of the offices of ABC/Disney to ask for the program to be taken off the air.
In Washington, Julie Santos, head of immigration affairs at the League of United Latin American Citizens, told Efe that LULAC had asked the network to end the program.
"As a Hispanic I think this is a very inappropriate program, and disturbing because it gives the media the chance to show Hispanics in a very negative light," Santos said.
She said a vigil will be held against the program on Saturday in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, where a Mexican immigrant was killed last year in what has been described as a hate crime.
For Enrique Morones, founder of the Border Angels, a Southern California group that comes to the rescue of immigrants lost in the desert along the Mexican border, the series is "immoral."
"It glorifies DHS agents and is another attempt to instill more fear among immigrants and make the country think they are criminals," he said.
According to a review in The New York Times stressing that the DHS is given the opportunity to censor the final copy of each episode, "Homeland Security USA" might well give "a powerful ego boost for insecure civil servants, but it doesn't reveal much about the homeland's actual security."
"It's homage, not reportage," the Times' Alessandra Stanley said of the progr