Conservative student group under fire for immigration game

A conservative student group at the University of Texas at Austin is planning to hold a "Catch an Illegal Immigrant" event.
Ronald Martinez, Getty Images

The Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) at the University of Texas at Austin is coming under fire for an event they plan to hold Wednesday called "Catch an Illegal Immigrant."

During the event, students will attempt to "capture" anyone with a sign on their clothing reading "illegal immigrant" and bring them back to the YCT table, according to a Facebook page created to promote the event.

"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," the description says.

The event came to the attention of the Texas Democratic Party because the organizer, a student named Lorenzo Garcia, is affiliated with the gubernatorial campaign of Greg Abbott, the state's attorney general. Garcia used to work as a field representative for Abbott, but has since left the campaign, Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch toldCNN.

"Our campaign has no affiliation with this repugnant effort. Illegal immigration and the failed policies of the Obama Administration are not a joking matter," said Abbott press secretary Avdiel Huerta in a statement.

Texas passed a law in 2001 that allows undocumented students to attend state universities and pay in-state tuition rates. They were the first state in the country to do so, an issue that dogged Texas Gov. Rick Perry during his 2012 presidential bid.

UT Austin's Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement, Gregory Vincent, issued a statement saying the group was "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."

"If the members of YCT carry out their plan for 'Catch an Illegal Immigrant,' they are willfully ignoring the honor code and contributing to the degradation of our campus culture. And once again, they will have resorted to exercising one of the university's core values to the detriment of others," the statement said.

This is not the group's first event that has raised eyebrows. In September, they held a bake sale where they charged students different prices depending on their race in protest of affirmative action. "No one really knew what was going on and many people didn't really know that race was a factor for UT admissions and other institutions throughout the country," Garcia told the Texas Tribune. "As a result of that bake sale a lot of people learned about [affirmative action]."

Update, Nov. 20, 9:47 a.m.According to the Texas Tribune, YCT has cancelled its plans for the "Catch an Illegal Immigrant" game. Garcia said the organizers feared retaliation from university officials, but also conceded that the event was "over the top." He also expressed disappointment with the vitriol directed at him about the event, saying in a statement, "The reactions of some who claim that YCT is creating a demeaning or degrading environment on campus have been truly disgraceful."

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