'Empty Shoes' exhibit draws controversy

May 8, 2008 4:04:08 PM PDT
A group opposed to illegal immigration has created a display of empty shoes at an Elgin campus to signify Americans killed by illegal immigrants.The Elgin-based Association for Legal Americans created the display "Empty Shoes, Empty Hearts," which includes pictures and information about 25 victims across the country who died in crimes perpetrated by illegal immigrants. The exhibit is on display for two days at Elgin Community College.

"I think it is very interesting. They have tried to convey a message here and they have done it with these shoes," said Stephen Fenstermacher, Elgin student.

"It is not only one group committing these crimes it is other groups as well," said Denisse Ayala, Elgin student.

The association co-founder Doug Heaton said some of the victims were killed in drunk driving accidents and others were killed in violent crimes. A Chicago area woman- Patricia Henneken, who was killed by a drunk driver in Hoffman Estates- is included in the exhibit. An illegal immigrant is now serving time in prison for her death.

"We it's a voice that hasn't been heard. We think people need to understand that there are lives lost because of the illegal alien problem," said Doug Heaton, Association for Legal Americans. Heaton says he wants to see the government take action against illegals responsible for criminal acts. "We need to screen immigrants. To make sure that illegal aliens that are in custody are identifying and removed from the country so that they can't be free to kill again."

Critics think the exhibit is one-sided.

"I am actually am against this. I think that they are manipulating the tragedy and trying to get people to be on their side in the immigration debate. I was in debate class today and I gave my speech on this topic and how it is just provoking a more negative response to illegal immigration," said Brittany Ancara, Elgin student. "It doesn't show how many people do good things. It doesn't show how many illegal people do crimes. It isn't the right thing to do."

Heaton created the display, which closes Friday at 5 p.m. He hopes to put it on display in other locations.


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