February 10, 2011 / 3:53 PM / 8 years ago

U.S. border smuggling game stirs controversy

TUCSON, Arizona (Reuters Life!) - A controversial iPod and iPad application that makes a game of the perils of sneaking across the U.S.-Mexico border has sparked controversy among activists for immigrant rights.

A U.S. border patrol vehicle is seen from the Mexican side of the border while driving near Otay Mountain on the outskirts of San Diego, California June 6, 2010. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes

In the game “Smuggle Truck,” which is due for release next month, a truck bounces along a cartoon desert highway and sheds men, women and children as it hits bumps and hops over creeks and canyons.

Developers say the game — the aim of which is to keep immigrants in the bed of the truck as they speed through the border lands — is to take a satirical swipe at the country’s broken immigration system.

But activists failed to see the app’s funny side.

Around 11 million illegal immigrants live and work in the shadows in the United States. Each year hundreds of thousands are arrested as they try to sneak across the rugged southwest border from Mexico, and hundreds perish making the trip.

“Smuggle Truck was inspired by the frustration our friends have experienced in trying to immigrate to the United States,” Smuggle Truck’s developer, Boston-based firm Owlchemy Labs, said in a statement posted online.

“With such a troublesome issue being largely avoided in popular media, especially video games, we felt the best way to criticize it was with an interactive satire,” it added.

In southern Arizona, where 11 illegal immigrants were killed when a smuggling truck rolled over in June 2009, activists for immigrant rights said it has no useful purpose.

It “does no service whatsoever to immigration nor to an understanding of the border and what the realities are,” said Jennifer Allen, executive director of the Tucson-based Border Action Network.

“Crossing the border is not unfortunately a hop in a pickup truck and a bounce along a desert road. It’s actually now become a high-stakes ... high-risk ... venture,” she added.

Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Jerry Norton and Patricia Reaney

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