Page last updated at 18:59 GMT, Friday, 21 May 2010 19:59 UK

Is Dora the Explorer an illegal immigrant?

Dora the Explorer is portrayed in a police mugshot with a black eye
Illegal alien?

Campaigners against a controversial new immigration law in the US state of Arizona have adopted a popular children's cartoon character as a symbol of their cause.

Dora the Explorer has taught millions of American children basic Spanish phrases on her Nickelodeon TV show.

But a doctored image on the internet now shows the cartoon heroine with a black eye in a police mugshot.

Her alleged crimes? Illegal border crossing and resisting arrest.

Several websites, including the influential Huffington Post, have run satirical stories describing Dora's capture by the immigration authorities.

One picture circulating on Facebook shows her vaulting over the fence on the US-Mexican border.

Another shows an advert for a mock television show entitled Dora the Illegal Immigrant.

Meanwhile, some anti-immigration sites have questioned whether the character is part of a conspiracy to persuade Americans to welcome migrants from Latin America.

Global empire

For almost a decade, the doe-eyed cartoon heroine has been one of the most prominent Hispanic characters on children's television in the US.

Her TV show has spawned a global empire, with her smiling face appearing on everything from lunch boxes to computer games.

But as the controversy over illegal immigration has intensified, Dora has been drawn into the political debate.

Most of the websites that have appropriated her image assume she is a migrant from Mexico.

Dora has brown skin, dark hair, and speaks Spanish with an American accent. She lives in a tropical country with pyramids, accompanied by friends Boots the Monkey and Isa the Iguana.

But Nickelodeon has declined to comment on her background, and her place of birth and citizenship have never been made clear.

The Dora police mugshot was originally created last year by Debbie Groben of Sarasota, Florida, for a contest on the fake news site

Last month, Arizona passed a law requiring police, in the context of enforcing other laws, to question people about their immigration status if they have reasonable suspicion they are in the US illegally.

Opponents have rallied against the measure, saying it it will encourage racial profiling of Hispanics, who make up three-quarters of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the US.

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