Update (below): Group calls off event after uproar
A group of Texas conservatives announced Monday that its members plan to stage a game they're calling "Catch an Illegal Immigrant" on Wednesday at the University of Texas in Austin.
"There will be several people walking around the UT campus with the label 'illegal immigrant' on their clothing," an event listing on Facebook explains. "Any UT student who catches one of these 'illegal immigrants' and brings them back to our table will receive a $25 gift card."
The group behind the politically-insensitive event is the UT chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT). The YCT previously landed national news headlines by promoting a racially-inflammatory bake sale that offered edible goods at different prices depending on the customer's race, ostensibly as a way of raising awareness about Affirmative Action.
"The purpose of this event is to spark a campus-wide discussion about the issue of illegal immigration, and how it affects our everyday lives," Lorenzo Garcia, chairman of the group's UT chapter, told The Texas Tribune.
Garcia is a former campaign aide to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the odds-on favorite to win the Republican Party's nomination for governor in the 2014 elections. Democrats, whose chances against Abbott will depend heavily on Latino voter turnout, were quick to pounce on the connection.
"Greg Abbott has already put fear into the hearts of hardworking college students in Texas, through his refusal to take a real position on the Texas DREAM Act," Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in prepared text. "While Abbott has said he doesn't support the DREAM Act as it is, he refuses to say what he would change and if he supports it at all. And now one of his staffers is organizing theatrical arrests on campus. Our young and promising DREAM Act scholars already live in enough fear of Abbott, without his staff also forcing them to watch mock arrests."
Similarly, the university's leadership was quick to speak out against the group's tactics, saying the YCT "is contributing to an environment of exclusion and disrespect among our students, faculty and staff by sending the message that certain students do not belong on our campus." The university's statement added that there are in fact undocumented students on campus who are legally permitted to attend state universities.
"Our campaign has no affiliation with this repugnant effort," the Abbott campaign told The Houston Chronicle. "Illegal immigration and the failed policies of the Obama Administration are not a joking matter."
Update: Group calls off event after uproar
The chairman of the YCT's UT chapter announced Monday afternoon that the planned event has been canceled out of what he described as fear that "the university will retaliate against them" and concern that counter-protesters may become violent.
"After the University President and the Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement released statements denouncing the event we planned as violating the university's honor code, I spoke with our chapter's members, and they area both concerned that the university will retaliate against them and that the protest against the event could create a safety issue for our volunteers," Garcia wrote.
Unfortunately, this was not the first time the YCT tried to pull off "Catch an Illegal Immigrant" on a Texas college campus. Similar events have been held, largely under the radar, in Austin and Lubbock since the first one in 2005.
Photo: Flickr user Nevele Otseog, creative commons licensed.