A conservative group has canceled a so-called “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Game” it planned to hold on the campus of the University of Texas.
The event drew condemnation from other student groups and Democrats. University officials said that holding it would violate the institution’s honor code.
The Young Conservatives of Texas chapter at UT-Austin planned to stage the event on Wednesday. But after conferring with group members, chairman Lorenzo Garcia said that he was concerned for their safety and standing at the university. An honor-code violation could lead to expulsion.
"They are concerned that the university will retaliate against them and the protest against the event could create a safety issue for our volunteers,” he said in a statement.
Under the rules of the game, group members would have worn shirts or signs that said “illegal immigrant.” Students who caught them would have received $25 gift cards.
Garcia conceded that the idea was “over-the-top.”
“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 said in his statement.
At the same time, he condemned critics of the event who made claims that were “truly disgraceful.”
“I have been shocked at the uproar over the event’s premise and at the personal attacks against me,” Garcia said. “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. The reactions of some who claim that YCT is creating a demeaning or degrading environment on campus have been truly disgraceful.”
He also chided the university, saying he always viewed it “as a place where students could express their opinions — whether or not they were popular.”
"The University of Texas at Austin honors the right of free speech for all students," the university said in a statement. "We welcome the Young Conservatives of Texas' decision to cancel Wednesday's event and look forward to the group being part of a thoughtful campus discussion about immigration."
The event sparked a political uproar in Texas. Garcia was formerly a paid staffer for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is a Republican candidate for governor.
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa on Monday called on Abbott to “come out and immediately denounce Wednesday’s event.”
“While Abbott has said he doesn't support the [Texas] DREAM Act as it is, he refuses to say what he would change and if he supports it at all,” Hinojosa said.
"Our campaign has no affiliation with this repugnant effort,” said Abbott spokesperson Avidel Huerta.
The Young Conservatives of Texas has a history of holding provocative events. This fall, it held an “affirmative action bake sale,” where it sold baked goods to students of different races at different prices.
Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.