Arizona Public Radio | Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Animated Show 'Bordertown' Explores Both Sides Of Immigration Debate


When we talk about immigration, it's usually when we're talking about politics or law, but what about the jokes? Now and edgy, not-for-kids cartoon on Fox is trying that approach. "Bordertown" is about neighbors on opposite sides of the immigration issue. NPR's Mandalit del Barco takes us into the show.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: "Bordertown" is set in the fictional Southwest desert town Mexifornia. Bud Buckwald is a racist border patrol agent who lives there. He's a mixture of Homer Simpson and Archie Bunker, who's outsmarted by his roadrunner-like nemesis, an immigrant smuggler.


CARLOS ALAZRAQUI: (As El Coyote, Speaking Spanish).

DEL BARCO: Hank Azaria, a familiar voice from "The Simpsons" plays Bud, a character who feels threatened.


HANK AZARIA: (As Bud Buckwald) I just don't know where a guy like me fits in anymore. It's like the Mexican has become the man and I've become the Mexican.

DEL BARCO: Next-door lives Ernesto Gonzalez, a Mexican immigrant who owns his own landscaping business.


NICHOLAS GONZALEZ: (As Ernesto Gonzalez) Why couldn't immigration have stopped right after me? Hey, I just became a true American.

DEL BARCO: Both sides get skewered on this show, including Ernesto's liberal college-educated son, J.C. Mexifornia passes anti-immigration laws, and J.C. gets deported.

GONZALEZ: (As J.C.) I'm not an immigrant. I was born here.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) If you were born here, who won the WNBA championship last year?

GONZALEZ: (As J.C.) The Phoenix Mercury.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) No American would know that. You're coming with me.

LALO ALCARAZ: This show is great. It's hilarious ridiculing the hate that's out there and our broken immigration system.

DEL BARCO: Lalo Alcaraz has a weekly syndicated comic strip, "La Cucaracha," which, like "Bordertown," both celebrates and lampoons Mexican-American culture. He was recruited to write and consult for "Bordertown" along with his friend Gustavo Arellano, author of the satirical column and book "Ask A Mexican."

ALCARAZ: This is not stuff that we make up. This is ripped straight from the headlines.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Let's build the wall.


DEL BARCO: In the show, Mexifornia residents build a wall to keep out immigrants, putting border patrol agent Bud out of a job. To make money, he begins smuggling in Mexicans through a tunnel.


AZARIA: (As Bud Buckwald) Welcome to America. You may ruin our country, but our country will ruin your children.

DEL BARCO: The smuggling competition angers drug lord Pablo Barracuda, a character reminiscent of Joaquin El Chapo Guzman. The real life outlaw escaped prison via a tunnel - pure coincidence he was recaptured two days before that episode aired.


DEL BARCO: In the "Bordertown" writers room, Arellano and Alcaraz pitch satirical storylines and jokes from their own experiences, like crossing to Tijuana for cheap medicine. Alcaraz suggested cliche details for the Gonzalez home.

ALCARAZ: Plastic-covered couches, tortilleria calendar 10 years out of date.


DEL BARCO: So far, "Bordertown's" ratings have been low, but the show has a lot of Latino fans on social media. Arellano says they've heard very little from the right.

GUSTAVO ARELLANO: I don't think they're seeing the show, or if they do, they like the politically incorrect humor and they like that we take on both sides equally. And then on the left, you have people who think, why is this on right now? At a time where families are being deported, at a time where Donald Trump is spewing his racist rhetoric, this is not the time for comedy. But my response would be, now more than ever.

DEL BARCO: Nothing and no one is spared on "Bordertown" - not homophobia, not political correctness, not even the pope.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) Don't make me use the pope, chancla.

DEL BARCO: The new episode on Sunday tackles American football and futbol. Mandalit del Barco, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition,, and