Toys “R” U.S., or Illegal Babes in Toyland

A Chinese-American baby was in line to get a $25,000 savings bond from Toys “R” Us until it was revealed her parents were illegal immigrants. Apparently Toys “R” Us had a rule in the sweepstakes that a baby would be disqualified if their mother was illegal, and Chinese-Americans are mad:

The first baby of the year is usually a one-day story. But Albert H. Wang, a corporate lawyer who read about Yuki Lin’s lost chance on the Web site of the Chinese-language newspaper The World Journal, was outraged enough to start an e-mail campaign that is enlisting the ire of prominent Chinese-Americans like the president of the Asian American Business Development Center and officers of the Organization of Chinese Americans.

Their criticism, and threats of a media campaign against the company, come just a month after the chain opened its first store in China, in Shanghai.

“They want business from China,” said Mr. Wang, 39, adding that most of the chain’s toys are made by Chinese workers in China. “But when it comes to this Chinese-American U.S. citizen, she was deprived of $25,000 intended to be used for her college education, because of who her parents are.”

All this comes right after Toys “R” Us opened its first mainland store in Shanghai. Will there be a boycott? Well, the story got picked up a bit on the Mainland, but apparently Toys “R” Us quickly changed its mind:

On Saturday, the company released a statement saying “We deeply regret that this sweepstakes became a point of controversy. As a result, we have decided to award all three babies in the grand prize pool a $25,000 savings bond.”

There were three babies born “first” on January 1st, and Yuki Lin had initially won a random draw between them before the prize was retracted. None of them were really the first though:

Ole Pedersen, a spokesman for Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn, said the hospital initially believed it had won the sweepstakes with the midnight birth of Odunayo Muhammed to a Nigerian immigrant couple, Christiana and Abdul Muhammed. Later he learned that the doctor who reported the birth online had missed the contest’s 6 a.m. deadline on Jan. 1 by an hour and a half.

As for a mother’s legal status, Mr. Pedersen added, “We wouldn’t have even thought of that.”

The Discussion: 20 Comments

Those damn tags. They’re not very forgiving, are they?

January 8, 2007 @ 9:31 pm | Comment

Last I heard, they rescinded the decision and gave the reward to the Chinese American baby.

January 9, 2007 @ 1:31 am | Comment

Lisa, they gave extra prizes out – re-read the thread.

I find the complaint a bit daft. Competitions always have rules. If it had said “white children only”, ok. But why does it have to include illegal immigrants?

“Apparently Toys “R” Us had a rule in the sweepstakes that a baby would be disqualified if their mother was illegal, and Chinese-Americans are mad”

Why? Should Chinese illegal immigrants get special treatment?

January 9, 2007 @ 2:43 am | Comment

This whole thing is so damn weird. Why the hell did Toys R Us set up such bizzare criteria in the first place? I mean, it is bad enough when the government tries to run our lives and Toys R Us is already running my life to the extent that it has my 9 year old on some sort of Pavlovian chain, but for them to get involved in immigration — they ought to have their heads examined.

January 9, 2007 @ 3:42 am | Comment

CLB, imagine if they had left it open to anyone and this Chinese family had won the prize. Imagine the reaction of many people – they would ask why illegal aliens were rewarded for breaking immigration laws.

Toys R Us were not trying to make a political statement, they were trying to avoid controversy. However it appears they were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t.

January 9, 2007 @ 5:55 am | Comment


The prize was awarded to the baby, who is an American citizen simply by being born in the US. Discrimnation based on someone’s parents or ancestors is generally looked down upon in the United States because of the Grandfather clauses in the old Jim Crowe laws. Also remember that this family didn’t choose to enter the contest themselves, it was Toys R Us that chose them.

Imagine the following scenario: A black person walks into a department store and is informed that he is the 1 millionth customer and has just won a prize. After taking his name and picture and subjecting him to a variety of other activities for promotional purposes, the store informs him — several days later — that they made a mistake and he’s not getting the prize because the only people eligible for this promotion are those descended from voting citizens of the United States before 1865. Would that be okay with you too?

January 9, 2007 @ 7:45 am | Comment

Hui Mao: that analogy was utter nonsense. Albert Wang’s war cry was yet another example of the Chinese community’s chip-on-shoulder knee-jerk response to any perceived sleight.

I agree with China law Blog that it was a mistake for the company to get embroiled in the immigration issue; but I also agree with Raj that it was not an unreasonable condition to impose in the first place.

I’m sorry they caved so easily under pressure.

January 9, 2007 @ 12:03 pm | Comment

Why is that analogy complete nonsense? In both, an American citizen was chosen by a private entity as a prize winner and used as part of a promotional campaign only to be later informed that he/she is not eligible because of conditions that his/her ancestors failed to meet.

January 9, 2007 @ 1:11 pm | Comment

Hui Mao is pretty much right. Toys R Us set up a contest that excludes illegal aliens and that does not make sense. I am definitely not one of those people who think illegal aliens are entitled to all the rights of citizens. In fact, I think that is crazy. They are illegal and should be treated differently by the government and by our laws because of this.

No, what I am questioning is why the hell Toys R Us weighed in on this issue in the first place and that is exactly what they did. It would be like having a $25,000 contest and putting in the rules that anyone who has ever been convicted of a felony cannot be a winner. That would be silly even though it is not silly to prohibit felons from voting.

Should be law firm say that we will not represent illegal aliens? If we said that would you agree that we were taking a very clear political position? Would you think that to be pretty weird.

This whole thing seems so clear to me (and believe me, it is not often that I say this) that I am wondering if I am missing something about the contest.

January 9, 2007 @ 2:10 pm | Comment

I’m a lawyer, which means I cannot shut up. Now you know why courts have page limits.

Should we not be questioning Toys R Us from a business perspective? Do you want to hold stock in a company that inadvertently takes a strong position on a sensitive political issue? Do you want to hold stock in a company that needlessly/gratuitously (if not indavertently) takes a position on a sensitive political issue?

What was Toys R Us thinking in the first place?????

January 9, 2007 @ 2:13 pm | Comment


“I’m a lawyer, which means I cannot shut up. Now you know why courts have page limits.”


I’d reiterate what I put at the end of the post from the NYT article – the contest didn’t even award the real first baby because of a failure to hand in paperwork at the proper deadline. Toys “R” Us basically launched a stunt with alot of caveats as to who could be included. It also has a built-in freshness date; PRwise they can’t be awarding the bond in late January after they tally all the results. As a result, a rush to judgment. Perhaps they should find some more meaningful and easier-to-manage way of looking like a nice company.

A part I left out, as well, is that the runner-up baby’s grandma said “If the parents are illegal, the baby is illegal too” – which isn’t true. Immigration has become a very polarized issue where the truth doesn’t matter anymore for alot of people. Toys “R” Us risked trouble on this no matter what they did or did not include in their rules, because immigrants could be among the parents in any case. It’s more a comment on the sad state of the immigration debate than it says anything about Toys “R” Us.

As for Albert Wang and the rest, I think Asian Americans in general do get left out of American public life. However, I think it would’ve been more appropriate if they had extended their argument to cover all immigrants. In this case it looks more like narrow parochialism – where’s their acknowledgement of the Nigerian couple, who technically had the real first kid of 2007?

January 9, 2007 @ 2:53 pm | Comment

WTF???? Their f-ing kid is named “Yuki”??????

January 9, 2007 @ 3:31 pm | Comment


Oh god, the horror! Doesn’t anybody name their kid Jiefang (解放) or Jianguo (建国) anymore!!

Look on the bright side, if she repatriates to China, she won’t get other peoples phone bills.

January 9, 2007 @ 4:59 pm | Comment

1. The saving bonds are in the baby’s name, not in the mothers.

2. Toys R Us should put and sign on their front door that illegal immigrants and their babies are not welcome to shop in their store. Better yet, they should post a federal agent at the door to check everybody’s papers.

January 9, 2007 @ 6:18 pm | Comment

Gee. I wonder how something like this would have went down in China with a Chinese retailer and an illegal Korean todler?

I’m guessing the todler wouldn’t have received anything but a fast-track deportation ticket for the entire family.

January 9, 2007 @ 9:15 pm | Comment


Good point. It is pretty much the same thing, isn’t it?


What’s your point? That two wrongs make a right. What about being a beacon?

January 9, 2007 @ 11:48 pm | Comment

Hui Mao is actually talking complete bollocks, because his analogy would only be appropriate if the baby had been excluded because her great-great-great-great-grandmother had been an illegal alien. Which is not the case at all, so his point is irrelevant.

By the way, Hui Mao, very often competitions open to children have the caveat that they cannot enter if their RELATIONS are employees of the company. So children are frequently prohibited from things depending on the status of their parents. You might think that’s unfair, but that’s life.

I also note that the people that appear to be primarily jumping up and down about this were Chinese Americans and not national ethnic minorities groups. If this was a real case of discrimination I would have thought NGOs would have protested. Instead it appears this Mr Wang was personally outraged because he thought she was only discriminated against because she was Chinese. Absolute nonsense – I doubt very much Toys R Us had Chinese illegal immigrants in mind when they drew up the rules.

Personally if I were living in China and my child were born there supposedly qualifying for a prize, but I was excluded because I was a non-national, I might ask if that were fair but I would certainly not threaten legal action. And if some git decided to use my situation to grandstage about a chip on his shoulder, I’d smack him right in the face!

January 10, 2007 @ 3:00 am | Comment

they should have read the rules, but it’s not smart for toys r’ us to discount illegals. they risk business for no possible gain, it seems.

January 10, 2007 @ 1:41 pm | Comment

Personally if I were living in China and my child were born there supposedly qualifying for a prize, but I was excluded because I was a non-national, I might ask if that were fair but I would certainly not threaten legal action.

Sure, but they’re not in China but the U.S., one of the most litigious countries in the world. Stuff like this is common as heck. And it’s for getting the child a better chance at an education – which is always a good thing in my book. So whatever, I say good for the lawyer. I’m bothered by the fact that he chose to emphasize discrimination against Chinese-Americans rather than against the children of illegal immigrants in general, but other than that, I don’t really see anything wrong.

(On another note, I read the thread title too fast at first and had immediately thought that Toys in Babeland had opened a store in China and got closed down or something. ;-))

January 11, 2007 @ 12:27 pm | Comment

With respect to my legal analysis on whether Yuki Lin is entitled to the $25,000 U.S. Savings Bond from Toys-R-Us, I am firmly convinced that my legal position (as set forth in my e-mails to Toys-R-Us’ Legal Department during the week of January 1, 2007) is correct and unassailable. Before I decided to start this uphill battle as a valiant seeker of Truth, Liberty and Justice, I did consult with various friends and family members who are reputable and competent lawyers.

The most important legal issue is:

Whether Toys-R-Us can discriminate against a First Baby of the Year (e.g., Yuki Lin, who is born in New York City, State of New York and undeniably a United States citizen), by refusing to award the $25,000 U.S. Savings Bond promised to be awarded by Toys-R-Us in accordance with the terms of its own Sweepstake Official Rules, based on the baby’s parents’ marital status, race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, education, criminal history, legal status or any other factors unrelated to the baby’s rights to U.S. citizenship under our Constitution, as amended by the Fourteenth Amendment.

I am firmly convinced that my legal analysis is accurate, and my legal position tenable. If this legal issue were argued in a U.S. federal court or New York State court, I strongly believe that Yuki would be able to prevail on the merits.

Albert Wang
. . . . . . . . a romantic realist,
aspiring to be a valiant seeker of Truth, Liberty and Justice.

January 13, 2007 @ 9:56 am | Comment

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