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Republicans’ ‘scary’ immigrant photo depicts Mexicans in Mexico, photographer reveals

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A photograph that has appeared in two high-profile Republican campaign commercials, used in both cases to depict what some have called “scary” illegal immigrants, is actually a photo taken in Mexico, depicting three Mexican farmers whose crops were destroyed, a British photojournalist has revealed.

And he isn’t exactly happy to see his work reproduced in such a manner.

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The photo, which was available through Getty Images, carries a caption describing the men as “Mexican citizens photographed in their own country,” explained photographer Chris Floyd, in an update to his blog.

In spite of this, Republicans Sharon Angle, a Senate candidate from Nevada, and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) have both featured the image in advertisements castigating alleged support of illegal immigrants by their political opponents.

“The fact that these men were Mexican citizens photographed in Mexico kind of negates their claims,” the photographer wrote.

His image was first published in 2006, by the British edition of GQ magazine, in a story about a town in Mexico that claims an economy largely supported by an industry that promotes illegal immigration into the United States.

“The men I met that morning in the Altar town square told me that they were farmers from the far south of Mexico and that that season’s crop had failed, leaving them with nothing to sell and no option, they felt, but to make the journey north to America to seek work,” the photographer wrote. “At the point that photograph was taken not one of them had ever set foot in America, and I have no idea if they ever did.”

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He added that Getty Images is looking into whether the Republican Party properly licensed the image for use in campaign advertisements.

Both Vitter and Angle used the photo in similar context: to depict illegal immigrants as something to be feared. This was obvious enough that it recently became a target of parody for Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert, who suggested the Republicans visit “fearstock.com” if they need more photos of “scary” Mexicans. The site actually redirects to a domain promoting the comic’s upcoming rally in Washignton, D.C.

Writing for The Washington PostAdam Serwer called the ads a “naked appeal to racial animus against Latinos” adding that “it rivals the infamous 1988 ‘Willie Horton’ ad deployed against Michael Dukakis.”

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Think Progress adds: “The ad appears to be vaguely referencing the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act which Reid attached to the defense reauthorization bill last month as an amendment. The DREAM Act wouldn’t give undocumented students special tuition rates, but it would eliminate a federal provision that penalizes states that provide in-state tuition without regard to immigration status. Angle’s ad doesn’t mention that it would also allow certain undocumented immigrant youth who were brought to the U.S. by their parents at a young age to eventually obtain legal permanent status by enlisting in the military or attending a university. A June 2010 national poll of 1,008 adults revealed that 70 percent of voters support the DREAM Act, across party lines.”

A political advertisement by Nevada Republican and US Senate candidate Sharon Angle follows.

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