Student Group’s Illegal Immigration Game Draws Outcry [Updated]


Update: On Tuesday morning, the Young Conservatives of Texas’ chairman, Lorenzo Garcia, released a statement announcing the event is canceled. He cited safety concerns: “I spoke with our chapter members, and they are both concerned that the university will retaliate against them and that the protest against our event could create a safety issue for our volunteers,” Garcia said, adding, “I acknowledge that the decision to include issuing $25 gift cards during the event was misguided and that the idea for the event was intentionally over-the-top in order to get attention for the subject.”

Garcia’s statement was released around the same time as a statement from the UT System chancellor and board of regents chairman denouncing the event. “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 statement said.

Original story:

A UT conservative student organization that has previously held “affirmative action bake sales,” which adjusted prices based on students’ races, is making headlines after announcing Monday its plans for an illegal immigration game.

Scheduled to take place on campus Wednesday, the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) event asks participants to “catch” student volunteers wearing labels that say “illegal immigrant.” The participants will then be rewarded with $25 gift cards, according to the event page on Facebook.

News of the event spread quickly on social media, with outlets including the Texas Tribune, the Washington Post, Buzzfeed, and Gawker among those picking up the story. After it was found that YCT chairman Lorenzo Garcia recently interned with Texas Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, Abbott’s campaign released a statement calling the event “repugnant.”

In an interview with Buzzfeed, Garcia said that while he wants the event to be nonviolent, he’s not sure protesters will stay peaceful. “We’re not promoting violence, but I’m concerned the opposition will be violent either to the ‘illegal immigrants’ or to the people at the table,” Garcia said.

In a meeting, the UT Faculty Council unanimously endorsed a statement by UT president Bill Powers saying the event is not in line with University values. “Our nation continues to grapple with difficult questions surrounding immigration,” Powers said. “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.” Powers also indicated that administrators will be watching closely on Wednesday to make sure no UT rules are broken.

Joshua Cook, assistant director in the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, called the event a free speech issue. “As long as students and student organizations abide by all university rules, we do not restrict their freedom of speech,” he said. “At this point, they have not filed paperwork to reserve any space for the Wednesday activities.” Cook added that because UT rules allow for spontaneous gatherings, not reserving space doesn’t mean the event isn’t happening.

On Facebook, the Young Conservatives’ event has 558 RSVPs, while the counter-event has 4,129. Below, see more of the social media reaction.


Tags: , , , ,