Locally produced “civic duty” fliers encourage racial profiling

Photo courtesy of Jaime Balbuena

Will Patterson

Jaime Balbuena came home after an overnight shift to find four fliers posted on his door. The fliers read, “A notice to all citizens in the United States of America it is your civic duty to report any and all illegal aliens to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement they have broken the law.”

Balbuena said he assumed the fliers were posted on his neighbors’ homes. After asking around, he discovered that his home was the only one. His house is in the Hickory Ridge neighborhood of West Omaha.

“All my neighbors are white. I knew it was because I was Hispanic they were posted on my door,” Balbuena said.

These posters encourage racial profiling. Without someone outright sharing their personal information, no one should know a stranger’s legal situation or citizenship status. What these fliers imply is for people to assume the legal status of people in the community based on stereotypes.

On top of the blatant prejudice behind these fliers, there is another level of concern. As Balbuena stated, individuals came onto his property in the middle of the night to post fliers while his family slept. The situation has caused Balbuena to contact the police and take precautions about future trespassers.

“Whoever did this knew my work hours. They knew when I was going to be home. That’s concerning to me,” Balbuena said.

What does this say about Nebraska’s relationship with immigrants and U.S. born Hispanic communities? It has taken a cold turn. Progress towards a more accepting community has been muddled by various hate groups. Growing anti-immigrant sentiment is pouring over into even more extreme prejudices, and its pushing socially moderate individuals into the hands of hateful organizations.

“Last time any of [my family] experienced anything like this it was always spoken words, but it was never anything on this type of level,” Balbuena said. “It’s never been someone coming onto our property posting this type of stuff.”

On a an even more severe note, Nazi literature was found in a several “little libraries” earlier this summer around the city according to reporting by the Omaha World-Herald. Additionally, a swastika was burned into the grass at Memorial Park just two weeks ago.

Unlike what the fliers claim, an actual duty of Nebraskans is to protect their neighbors, friends and family from harassment.

As the school year begins, students looking to prevent the spread of bigotry should be keeping eye out for any hateful postings. Anti-Semitic fliers were reported to the UNO Department of Public Safety on May 8. Any students who see any posters encouraging harassment or violence on campus should immediately notify Public Safety or the police.

“I feel people need to start conversating more instead of letting this type of close minded thoughts sit around and cook in their head,” Balbuena said. “I just feel people need to talk more.”