On Wednesday, the University of Texas at Austin chapter of Young Conservatives will hold a mock immigration raid to target several students on campus who are purposefully wearing “illegal immigrant” t-shirts. The Facebook event is meant to “spark a campus-wide discussion about the issue of illegal immigration, and how it affects our everyday lives” and students who “catch” an undocumented immigrant will receive a $25 gift card.
The Facebook event was posted early Monday morning, but it has already drawn sharp opposition from people who have contacted the university president’s office to call for the expulsion of the lead organizer Lorenza Garcia. Garcia once worked as a campaign staffer for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. A university spokesperson said that the school will release a response on Wednesday afternoon.
The UT Young Conservatives is not the first group to hold such an event. In 2005, the Young Conservatives of the University of North Texas awarded candy bars to students who “captured” people posing as undocumented immigrants. In 2006, about 100 students protested the “Catch the illegal immigrant” game jointly organized by the Young Americans for Freedom at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan after the “game” was suggested by Morgan Wilkins, a former field representative for the College Republican National Committee. And in 2007, several hundred people protested student Republican groups at New York University and the University of Iowa when players searched on campus for students wearing an “illegal immigrant” insignia.
Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement at UT-Austin said in a prepared statement that student members who carried out the plans would be “willfully ignoring the honor code and contributing to the degradation of our campus culture.” Vincent also said, “such tactics are inflammatory and demeaning. And once again in trying to be provocative, the YCT is contributing to an environment of exclusion and disrespect … Some UT Austin students are undocumented, and under Dream Act legislation signed into law in 2001, these students are entitled to attend state universities.”
In a statement released late Monday afternoon, Bill Powers, UT Austin President, said that Wednesday’s event “is completely out of line with the values we espouse at The University of Texas at Austin … As Americans, we should always visualize our Statue of Liberty and remember that our country was built on the strength of 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.”
Greg Abbott’s office released a statement Monday afternoon which read in part, “Our campaign has no affiliation with this repugnant effort … Conservatives should not stoop to the level of liberals” because that would do “nothing but sidetrack the Texas Legislature.”
On Tuesday, Garcia called off the event because he was afraid that the school President and the Vice President’s letters would prompt the university to “retaliate against them and that the protest against the event could create a safety issue for our volunteers.”