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Should Citizenship Be a Prerequisite to Winning a Contest?

Is citizenship or other legal status a prerequisite for entering or winning a contest? That's the question that's arisen not once but twice this month in two unrelated stories.The first involves a sweepstakes run by Toys R Us, with a grand prize of a $25,000 savings bond for the first baby born in 2007 (see here for AP story). However, the company passed over Yuki Lin, a Chinese-American baby born a few seconds after midnight to nonresident parents in favor of the second-born baby, whose parents were citizens. Toys R Us claimed that its contest was only open to legal residents.   

But then Albert Wang, a corporate lawyer learned about the Toys R Us decision. Wang was outraged by what he perceived as hypocrisy, in that Toys R Us wanted business from China but was not willing to award a prize to a Chinese-American citizen because of her parents' nonresident status. Wang started an e-mail campaign, which eventually lead Toys R Us to reverse its decision and award a savings bond to Yuki Lin.

Just yesterday, another similar issue arose, described in this Chicago Sun Times Story, No Green Card, No Free Car (1/25/07). There, a Spanish radio station held a raffle, but refused to award  the prize of a sportscar to the winner, Maribel Alvarez. Alvarez was unable to produce a valid Social Security card, which the station claimed was necessary to allow raffle winners to claim prizes worth more than $500. Alvarez, who has been in the United States since she was seven, retained an attorney to sue the station, arguing that the contest did not require her to be a U.S. citizen or legal resident in order to win the car. The radio station responded to Alvarez's attorney by threatening to refer Alvarez to immigration authorities if she didn't drop the suit. 

In an environment where dealing with illegal immigration is a hotly debated political issue, stories like these are particularly charged. But legally, what's the right analysis and result? Let me know your view.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on January 26, 2007 at 05:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)


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