This sign at the corner of Pearl and Front streets has prompted a protest slated for Monday. -- Sarah Stultz/ Albert Lea Tribune

Archived Story

‘Deport illegals’ sign stirs controversy

Published 9:26am Saturday, August 4, 2012

Sign declares “Catch and release — no! Deport illegals — si.”

ALBERT LEA — A Latino nonprofit out of Owatonna is organizing a protest slated for Monday in Albert Lea near an electronic sign that some consider racist, while others defend it as simply free speech.

The sign, posted high on the side of the Dima Corp. building at 628 Pearl St., is owned by Albert Lean Mal Prinzing. It reads “Catch and Release – No!; Deport Illegals – Si.” And if the sign weren’t enough, the same phrase was printed on a yellow banner behind an airplane flying above Albert Lea Thursday afternoon.

Centro Campesino, an advocate group for the Latino and migrant community in southern Minnesota, said it takes offense to the sign, as it hangs in a neighborhood where many Latino people live. The protest — which Centro Campesino says is open to the public — is slated for 6 to 8:30 p.m. on a lawn across the street from the sign, located at the corner of Pearl and Front streets.

A news release from Centro Campesino says the phrase targets the Latino population and creates a hostile environment for Hispanics in Albert Lea — not just for those who are undocumented. The phrase “Catch and Release – No!” also dehumanizes undocumented immigrants by likening their arrest and deportation to fishing, the release says.

Dima Corp.’s building is a former grain elevator with corrugated steel siding. The company owns adult-novelty stores and circulates adult videos. It also is a registered seller of aircraft and often rents out a large yellow sign with moveable letters. Most notably, in 2008, the yellow sign was rented to the Minnesota Coalition for Immigration Reduction during the “Third of July Parade.” The sign’s message on both sides said: “Illegal immigrants cost jobs, hospitals and courts.”

Children near the corner of Bridge Avenue and Fountain Street threw rocks at the sign, and one rock missed, hitting a woman in the face. The event sparked controversy.

The Albert Lea Tribune attempted to reach the sign’s owner for comment, but an employee at Dima Corp. said he was out of town.

“What happened to free speech?” asked Paul Westrum, founder of the Minnesota Coalition for Immigration Reduction and an Albert Lea resident. “A guy has free speech and puts a sign out there. Why is anybody complaining about it?”

Westrum said he and others from his group plan to attend the protest Monday night, mainly to answer questions from Centro Campesino.

“We’ve had immigration laws on the books for years and years, but for the last 20 years our government has refused to protect us with these laws,” he said.

City Inspector Doug Johnson said he has been receiving several calls about the sign this week from people questioning whether it violates city ordinances. Johnson said despite what some people think, Prinzing went through all of the proper channels to have the sign installed, and the sign is legal.

“He did get a permit, and he did have a licensed sign hanger to hang that sign up there,” he said. “We can’t do anything about the content, nor should we. That’s a First Amendment right.”

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  • the12envy

    Dumb! Of course it’s legal! If you’re offended by this & don’t like the First Amendment, LEAVE!

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  • Jan

    The best call would be to the INS to attend this “protest” of FREE speach–perhaps they could round up some “fish” that have eluded their catch.  If tipped off the crowd would be considerably LESS if there was a fear of being “caught”–yes, if you have come here illegally and are undocumented you have already BROKE THE LAW!!!!!!!!!

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    • Schmo Schumacher

       The INS doesnt exist since the creation of Homeland Security.

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  • LEXXfan

    Not sure why, but my original comment seems to have disappeared so I’ll try this again: We are getting dangerously close as a society to where a person’s First Amendment rights are going to be rights in name only. Certain groups in this country are now basically refusing to allow people to express their points of view without some sort of protest movement in response. This is one example, and the Chik-Fil-A “controversy” earlier this week is another. It is truly frightening that a person can no longer say that they are against illegal immigration or are for traditional marriage without being labeled as some sort of intolerant bigot. What’s next, being labeled a hate monger for saying you believe that Jesus saves? Get ready people, the PC police are on the march and they’re coming for all of us who refuse to fall in line with their “enlightened” way of thinking.

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  • leftthehatebehind

    There are more than Hispanics here illegally, which is obviously who he is targeting… if you are going to get your point across, try not to be so ignorant while doing it.

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  • EriclJohnson

    I feel the hispanic protestets should support deportation of illegals.  Everyone here legally needs to support our laws.  To me any protester is against the laws of the United States of America.  Any group that protests our laws are promoting illegals or any other law breakers.  Iam not supporting racists,  if that sign pointed out a group or did not have permits it would need to come down.  Iam not reading any laws were broken.

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  • ben k

    “Anti-Racists” ALL agree that white children only deserve 2 options:

    Either embrace their global genocide via massive non-white immigration and forced assimilation targeted at ALL & ONLY white countries;


    They are a naziswhowanttokillsixmillionjews & deserve to be harassed, censored, fired, jailed, intimidated, threatened or beat up until they’ve learned to embrace their genocide.

    Anti-Racist is a code word for Anti-White.

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  • scottb10

    Everyone has an opinion.  Mine is the person who put this sign up is wierd.

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  • RightUnite

    What??? It’s right on the mark!!   Prove it wrong!!

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  • David Stutz

    We are losing our rights to the political whims of politicians like Obama who will do anything including betray legal Americans to get re-elected.

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    • leftthehatebehind

      Hummm… and your boy Romney is completely honest too? Yeah…

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