Saturday, October 27, 2007

Michelle Dallacroce was hopping mad when she received a letter from Mothers Against Drunk Driving demanding she change the name of her organization, Mothers Against Illegal Aliens.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Mrs. Dallacroce said. “I don’t know who would be confused by this. We don’t even have the same acronym.”

Mrs. Dallacroce, president of the Phoenix-based advocacy group, received a certified letter Oct. 10 stating that MADD owns the rights to the name “Mothers Against” and giving her 10 days to stop using it.

“While we do not oppose the name of your organization as a whole, we cannot permit the term ‘Mothers Against’ to be used in such a manner since it creates a likelihood of confusion to the public as to any affiliation with Mothers Against Drunk Driving,” the letter stated. “MADD cannot be associated with your organization and the use of ‘Mothers Against’ gives a strong implication of a relationship with MADD.”

Mrs. Dallacroce fired back with a terse reply: “No!”

An official from MADD could not be reached for comment.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of organizations that use the name “Mothers Against,” including Mothers Against War, Mothers Against Cancer, Mothers Against Guns and Mothers Against Medical Error.

Why MADD would single out MAIA isn’t clear, although Mrs. Dallacroce has her own theory. She contends that MADD fears running afoul of immigration advocacy groups, and at least one MADD official agrees with her.

Virginia Faircloth, president and founder of MADD’s York County, S.C., chapter, resigned last week after learning of the threat against MAIA, saying that MADD has turned a blind eye to the problem of drunken driving by illegal aliens.

She said she was told by national leaders to remove a link on her Web site to the Jackson-Avery Foundation, an organization she started with a friend whose husband was killed by an illegal alien driving drunk.

“They said their biggest concern was they didn’t want anyone to think MADD was taking a stand on illegal immigration,” Mrs. Faircloth said. “They worry too much about politics and they forget why they’re there.”

She said she confronted MADD National President Glynn Birch, who admitted the group hadn’t sent letters to any other “Mothers Against” organizations.

“I said, ‘You say you don’t want to take a stand on illegal immigration, but by sending that letter [to MAIA], you have,’ ” Mrs. Faircloth said.

At one time, MADD tackled head-on the problems surrounding drunken driving among Hispanic newcomers. In the fall 2001 issue of Driven magazine, a MADD publication, an article discussed “how critical it is for MADD to reach out and educate the Hispanic community about preventing drunk driving.”

The article quoted a study by the Alcohol Policy Group in Berkeley, Calif., showing that “Hispanic drivers are more likely than Anglo drivers to consume more alcohol more frequently and have been shown to be more likely than Anglos to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level over .05 percent.”

The article also discussed how drinking was more common in Mexican culture, adding that traffic laws are different and seatbelt restraints are “almost unheard of.”

That same year, actor Edward James Olmos, a Hispanic, and Raul Yzaguirre, then president of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group, joined MADD’s National Advisory Board. The plan was to help MADD reach out more effectively to Hispanic communities.

MADD’s critics say the result has been to ignore the connection between illegal aliens and drunken driving.

“You’ve got La Raza infiltrating MADD. MADD’s now into seatbelt safety instead of deporting illegal drunk drivers,” Mrs. Dallacroce said.

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