'Catch an Illegal Immigrant' & Texas Republican's Tone Regarding Immigration
University of Texas, Austin's student group, Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT), was confronted by Latino activists and counter-protesters after organizing a now-defunct game of "Catch an Illegal," which was meant to be held last month. The YCT chapter, led by student Lorenzo Garcia, planned to distribute $25 gift cards to those who pursued and caught individuals who were tagged as "illegal immigrants."
The game, which was born from anti-immigrant sentiment, was meant to protest illegal immigration. The game/protest/event was cancelled, after it was understood that there would be counter-protests from other campus groups, a number of Latino activists, and other immigrants, who are involved in the immigration conversation.
Garcia claimed that the action was simply a gesture to spark discussion, one that would create publicity around students' discussions regarding immigration reform. The promotion was met with anticipated outrage, as it revisits conservatives' coarse and calculated tone when it comes to subject matters like illegal immigration.
The Facebook advertised event, where a few hundred were listed as "attending," met backlash over the social media channel. Facebook users remarked that the group practiced "mockery;" and that they were "doing more harm than good." One conservative even stated, "This is not what Conservatives/Republicans stand for. You are giving the Conservative ideology and Republican party such a bad representation. I just hope people don't judge the ideology and party as a whole for this mistake."
U.S. Rep Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) indicated that Texas Republicans were becoming more radical and growingly anti-immigrant. The notion of the provocative game only reiterates that fact, simply because it does more than ruffles a few feathers, it celebrates the criminalization of the non-U.S.-born by rewarding it.
Garcia, who has affiliations with GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbot, was quoted, saying that he was "shocked at the uproar." He proceeded to say that the gift cards were "misguided," but the event was constructed to purposefully push buttons. He also felt that the other students' attempt to silence his group was unfair, because they simply wanted to "make their voices heard about an important issue."
YCT cancelled the event, but couldn't cancel the outrage it accrued. The scarce hundreds of people who were expected to attend the event, according to Facebook, pales in comparison to the 4,300 who intended to gather in a counter-protest, hosted by the University Leadership Initiate.
While the event was cancelled, YCT continues to protest, and continue to dismiss the notion that the United States is a nation of immigrants. In the past, the conservative student group also held an anti-affirmative action bake sale -where students were asked to pay different prices based on ethnicity and gender. The university's president, Bill Powers, has called the group's behavior "out-of-line" and Gregory Vincent, the university's vice president for diversity stated that YCT contributes to "an environment of exclusion and disrespect." Nonetheless, these students are allowed to host disrespectful events, claiming that they're meant to evoke a conversation. The best way to have a dialogue, however, is to begin one, verbally, not through gimmicks.