Why I'm Not Celebrating This Viral Super Bowl Ad — & Neither Should You

As I watched the Super Bowl last night (i.e., waited for Lady Gaga's performance), I was intrigued by 84 Lumber's viral ad about immigration. A very familiar story played on my screen: A mother and daughter who appear to be undocumented Mexican immigrants struggle as they try to make their way to the US border. The 90-second spot leaves their fate unknown, as viewers are urged to visit the company's website to see the conclusion of the story.

As someone who has reported on immigration issues, it hit really close to home. But I didn't search for the entire version of the ad (which the company says was "deemed too controversial" to air in full on television) until this morning.

Like many on social media, seeing the ending of the ad really shook me. Everything — from the little girl's makeshift flag to the hope in the mother's face as they cross into the light — made me want to curl up in a ball and cry. Initially, I thought there was something beautiful about seeing a company take a stand and say, "The will to succeed is welcome here."

But then I saw an official comment from 84 Lumber [an American building supplies company] when I was about to share the company's video on my personal Facebook page: "President Trump has previously said there should be a 'big beautiful door in the wall so that people can come into this country legally.' We couldn’t agree more."
I was incredibly disappointed. Actually, scratch that. I was (and still am) outright mad.

This was not some subversive, "Hey, President Trump. You told us to build a wall, but we left a door so anyone can come in because we're a compassionate nation." And it wasn't, "You know what, undocumented immigrants work hard and make this country a better place." Nope.

This ad took a political stance, but as far as I can tell, it's not the one so many people are raving about. The ad was a visual translation of Trump's infamous words about the wall: "We’re going to build a big, beautiful door."

Am I reaching? Or am I insane? Actually, no. Maybe the media should have done a bit more research before jumping to praise the company.

Maggie Hardy Magerko, 84 Lumber’s president and owner, voted for Trump in the election. She also told The New York Times she is welcoming of some immigrants.

"I am all about those people who are willing to fight and go that extra yard to make a difference and then if they have to, you know, climb higher, go under, do whatever it takes to become a citizen. I am all for that 110%," she said. "But do I want cartels? Hell, no."

84 Lumber's social media team might have been a bit ambiguous in their canned responses on Facebook, but they did emphasise on Twitter that the mother-daughter duo's journey was towards becoming legal citizens. Emphasis on legal.
These assertions from Magerko and the company's social team totally miss the point. There is no door. There is no long line of people waiting to get in. Migrating legally to the US is a long, expensive, complex process that is unattainable for a lot of people.

It's also quite offensive that Magerko believes that opening the door to new immigrants could automatically mean letting in the "cartels" when in fact, there's plenty of evidence showing that both legal and undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens.

Furthermore, it's a slap in the face that the company exploited the tale of brown (and presumably Mexican) female migrants to sugarcoat President Trump's plans. Border wall? Bad. Border wall with a big, beautiful door? Good!

Women and children
are the most vulnerable people when making the journey to cross the border. It's sickening that a company would use these struggles just to advance some skewed agenda and paint themselves as the good guys. (And also, of course, to make money.)

If 84 Lumber "couldn't agree more" with Trump's idea of a wall and the "big, beautiful door" then I couldn't agree more with throwing that ad in the trash, where it belongs.

Refinery29 has reached out to 84 Lumber for comment, and we will update this post if we receive a response.

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