Absurdity takes many forms in the immigration debate. For example, restrictionists have blamed immigrants for everything from global warming and our mortgage crisis to the swine flu epidemic and leprosy. (Where did my other sock go? Immigrants!) But this week, we reach a new level of absurdity—the exploitation of a bi-lingual cartoon character. In a news article published last week, America tackles the age old question, “Is Dora the Explorer an Illegal Immigrant?” Insert. Eye roll. Here.

To be fair, the article examines how both sides of the debate use Dora’s ubiquitous image to make political points about the state of our broken immigration system—even quoting a sociologist who concludes that since Dora is a cartoon, she’s an easy target for people to project their feelings about Latinos—both good and bad. But what does this say about the state of our immigration debate? Answer: Nothing good.

… experts say the pictures and the rhetoric surrounding them [Dora] online, in newspapers and at public rallies, reveal some Americans’ attitudes about race, immigrants and where some of immigration reform debate may be headed.

“May be headed?” I think we’re already there. The investigation into Dora’s immigration status includes her location, her friends and the type of music she listens to:

Dora lives in an unidentified location with pyramids that suggest Mexico, but also tropical elements such as palm trees and her friends, Isa the iguana and Boots the monkey. Does that mean she’s from South America or Florida? Then there’s oak trees and her fox nemesis Swiper, which are more common to the American Midwest. The show often plays Salsa-like music, which has some roots in Cuba and is popular across Latin America.

While we’re at it, we should also investigate the legal status of Isa the Iguana and Boots the Monkey.

Altamise Leach, who has three children, said Dora’s ethnicity and citizenship are irrelevant.

Thanks for being open-minded, Altamise, but the fact that people are discussing Dora and her immigration status at all is a pretty good indication that the rhetoric surrounding immigration has strayed far from the main tenets of the debate—that is, how do we reform our outdated immigration system to include smart enforcement measures, a workable system for admitting people into this country and a system to manage future immigration flows? Instead, we have Facebook pages dedicated to bringing down Dora and sardonic sock puppets who lambaste members of the Obama administration for not reading Arizona’s enforcement law. Sock puppets.

Granted, it doesn’t help to throw fuel on the fire by discussing the absurdity of it all, but the sooner we stop trying to place Dora’s accent or determine what constitutes “illegal-looking hair,” the sooner we can start focusing on actual solutions to our immigration problems.

Photo by FreakingNews.