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Another issue involves copyrights since most of the costume wearers are not authorized by the characters’ owners, including Disney and Sesame Street.

On a sunny afternoon, Times Square was filled with about two dozen characters, including multiple Elmos, a Minnie Mouse, a Hello Kitty and more than one copper-green-skinned Statue of Liberty. At least two characters - Minion from “Despicable Me” and one Elmo - said they purchased their knockoff costumes, made in Peru, for about $300.

Speaking in Spanish through their masks, several people acknowledged they are living in the U.S. illegally and said they rely on Times Square tips to feed their families. City officials acknowledged that some of the characters are in the country without legal permission but said they don’t know how many.

Pablo Fuentes, 40, an unemployed construction worker with four children from Paterson, New Jersey, said he works five days a week as Minion, earning about $55 for each six-hour shift.

“A license would be good for everybody, for the customer, for us, for you,” he said. “This is a job, and we’re not doing something wrong. Everybody needs a job.”