AUSTIN –– The Catch an Illegal Immigrant game scheduled for Wednesday on the University of Texas campus has been canceled, according to a statement released by Lorenzo Garcia, chairman of the UT chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT).
The game, organized by YCT UT, would allow students across campus to "catch" other students wearing the words "illegal immigrant" on their clothing and bringing them to UT's West Mall in exchange for a $25 gift card. According to the Facebook page, the game was intended to "spark a campus-wide discussion about the issue of illegal immigration."
Garcia said the event was canceled due to group members' worries that "the university will retaliate against them and that the protest against the event could create a safety issue for our volunteers."
Garcia also said that the idea for $25 gift card rewards was "misguided" and that the event was "intentionally over-the-top in order to get attention for the subject."
He also said that he believes illegal immigration is a concern in the U.S. and that he hopes UT students begin to talk about the issue. Go here for Garcia's full statement.
UT's Campus Climate Response Team responds to reports of discrimination. They tell KVUE News so far more than 500 complaints have been filed. That's the most they've ever received.
UT released an official statement responding to the decision to cancel the event, saying, "The University of Texas at Austin honors the right of free speech for all students. We welcome the Young Conservatives of Texas' decision to cancel Wednesday's event and look forward to the group being part of a thoughtful campus discussion about immigration."
On Monday night students in University Leadership Initiative (ULI) met on campus to organize a protest of the event.
Raymond Jose works with United We Dream, a group helping the students plan. He is in the U.S. on a work permit.
"My mom and dad, on the other hand. They could be taken away from me any day. That is a reality that I face, and I don't appreciate when someone makes it into a game," Jose said.
"This is not a game. This is not a joke and it's something... it shouldn't be here on campus," added Rubia Espiricueta.
Espiricueta is an undocumented student who is legally enrolled at UT under a law created for students who were brought to Texas as children.
"I'm a UT student. I'm a longhorn, and I deserve the same rights as the other students," she said.
University President Bill Powers released the following statement Monday:
"The proposed YCT event is completely out of line with the values we espouse at The University of Texas at Austin. Our students, faculty and the entire university work hard both to promote diversity and engage in a respectful exchange of ideas. The Wednesday event does not reflect that approach or commitment. As Americans we should always visualize our Statue of Liberty and remember that our country was built on the strength of immigration. Our nation continues to grapple with difficult questions surrounding immigration. I ask YCT to be part of that discussion, but to find more productive and respectful ways to do so that do not demean their fellow students."
UT System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa and Board of Regents Chairman Paul L. Foster also released a statement in response to the event:
“Embedded in the mission statement of The University of Texas System is the goal of providing learning opportunities to students from a wide range of social, ethnic, cultural and economic backgrounds, thereby preparing educated, productive citizens who can meet the rigorous challenges of an increasingly diverse society and an ever-changing global community, in addition to cultivating in students the ethical and moral values that are the basis of a humane social order. "It is both disappointing and dishonorable for any UT student to treat another with disrespect, and we hope that the Young Conservatives of Texas explore more constructive and mature ways to promote a dialogue about issues of concern to them.”
The event organizer, Lorenzo Garcia, worked for Republican Greg Abbott's campaign for governor until two months ago. Abbott's spokesperson released this statement:
"Our campaign has no affiliation with this repugnant effort. Illegal immigration and the failed policies of the Obama Administration are not a joking matter. Conservatives should not stoop to the level of liberals, whose shenanigans at the Texas Capitol this summer, including chants of 'hail Satan' during Senator Davis' filibuster to allow abortions after five months, did nothing but sidetrack the Texas Legislature."