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Badge of Dishonor: Boy Scout Patch of ‘Fleeing Immigrants’ Causes Controversy

A Boy Scout troop from Milwaukee is taking criticism for creating a patch that uses an iconic “fleeing immigrants” image commonly associated with anti-immigrant sentiments and xenophobic hate groups.

Created to match the Troop 11’s self-appointed name of “Border,” the patch features an image of a silhouettes family of three running, sandwiched between the phrases “caution” and “border patrol.”

The controversy was stoked by the site Latino Rebels, which contacted the national Boy Scouts of America organization to ask about the origins and authorization of the patch, the Huffington Post reported.

Seemingly wanting nothing to do with the issue—no surprise considering the political climate surrounding immigration reform—two officials from the Boy Scouts America have claimed no wrongdoing.

Frank Ramirez, program specialist of Boy Scouts of America told Latino Rebels that “the National Council, Boy Scouts of America, had nothing to do with the production of this image, and as such, is not part of the Advancement program for our youth.”

The organization’s communications specialist, David Burke, said: “Neither the United States Border Patrol or the Boy Scouts of America were involved in the naming of the patrol, or the production or distribution of the patch.”

Burke added that giving individual troops complete autonomy for picking its own patrol name is customary practice. “Patrol names can be just about anything the boys decide,” he said. “In this case, the patrol decided they would be called ‘Border.’ ”

The National Leadership of the Boy Scouts of America has declared the patch “unauthorized” and the troop will likely face consequences if they don’t chuck the patch.

“We have been told by our council that if we don't change the name of the patrol the troop will be disbanded as a whole,” assistant Scoutmaster Bradley Schultz told the Latino Rebels

The patch was created in 2002, according to the troop’s statement, by a troop member of Mexican descent who thought of the idea after spotting a similar road sign while visiting Texas. Members then agreed on using the image as the official patch. .

The controversy has also sparked Twitter wars between Latino Rebels and Troop 11 members. Some who support the troop said they feel strongly that the patch can’t be considered offensive because it was created by a member of Mexican descent and, they allege, because the troop is currently comprised of mostly Latino boys.

Ryan Antczak, who told Latino Rebels that he was also an assistant scoutmaster, claimed that Troop 11’s member wanted to use the “fleeing immigrants” image to distinguish themselves from “those that come to our country illegally.”

“We are located in a very diverse area were the majority of Latin decent,” he said. “No one has been offended till this day. We are not embarrassed by a branch of our government that serve this country proudly who put their lives on the line.”

Antczak, who is white, said he doesn’t understand all the hoopla or how an image can still be considered offensive if Latinos heavily influenced the design that was created a decade ago.

Still, images and words are constantly redefined and their current sentiment should always be explained to the group they’re being used to represent—especially when that group is young boys aged 10-18.

Antczak’s claim that the young scouts wanted to disassociate themselves from the plight of those they may share ancestry with is also not a proper defense.

Naima Ramos-Chapman is an associate editor at Campus Progress.

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