AUSTIN, Texas (CBS Houston/AP) — A conservative student group has canceled a planned “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Game” at the University of Texas at Austin.
The game initially drew condemnation from Democrats and a threat of expulsion from campus officials.
The Young Conservatives of Texas planned the game for Wednesday. Club members would have wandered the campus wearing signs that say “illegal immigrant,” and students who captured them and took them to the Young Conservatives’ recruiting table would have gotten $25 gift certificates.
In a statement, the group’s spokesman, Lorenzo Garcia, said that they were concerned for the group’s volunteers following the uproar over the event.
“After the University President and the Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement released statements denouncing the event we planned as violating the university’s honor code, I spoke with our chapter’s members, and they are both concerned that the university will retaliate against them and that the protest against the event could create a safety issue for our volunteers,” Garcia said in a statement.
Garcia said he was wrong to use $25 gift cards for the planned game.
“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 stated.
The Texas Democratic Party originally condemned the game and pointed out that Garcia recently was a paid staffer with Republican Greg Abbott’s gubernatorial campaign. The Democratic party has been pushing Abbott to state his position on a Texas law that allows children brought into the country illegally by their parents to receive in-state tuition, legislation called the Texas DREAM Act.
“While Abbott has said he doesn’t support the DREAM Act as it is, he refuses to say what he would change and if he supports it at all,” state Democratic chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said. “He must come out and immediately denounce Wednesday’s event. This style of hatred and fear is not the type of leadership Texas deserves.”
Abbott’s Press Secretary, Avdiel Huerta, said the “campaign has no affiliation with this repugnant effort.”
Many top Republican candidates have promised to repeal the Texas DREAM Act. Students affected by the law frequently stage protests on the Austin campus demanding changes to federal immigration law.
Garcia said he was shocked by the uproar.
“I have been shocked at the uproar over the event’s premise and at the personal attacks against me. Today, opponents of YCT have claimed that I am being used as a front man. I have been called an “Uncle Tom.” I have received emails and comments via social media filled with obscenity,” Garcia said. “The reactions of some who claim that YCT is creating a demeaning or degrading environment on campus have been truly disgraceful.”
Gregory Vincent, the university’s vice president for diversity, warned that students would would have particiated in the game would have been exercising their freedom of speech “to the detriment of others.”
“The YCT is 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,” Vincent said in a statement. “If the members of YCT carry out their plan … they are willfully ignoring the honor code and contributing to the degradation of our campus culture.”
Vincent added: “[T]he YCT is 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. Some UT Austin students are undocumented, and under Dream Act legislation signed into law in 2001, these students are entitled to attend state universities. They are part of a growing diverse population on campus and in the state of Texas—a population that plays increasingly larger roles in our intellectual, economic, political and cultural communities.”
Students faced expulsion if they violated the honor code.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)