We all know that the topic of illegal immigration is a very serious one to many people, especially in border states like Texas. It touches many people either directly or indirectly. Emotions and debates can become very heated on both sides of the issue. This week, University of Texas student Lorenzo Garcia and his chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas added fuel to the proverbial fire.
Garcia, chairman of the conservative UT student organization which has previously held “affirmative action bake sales” where prices were adjusted based on students’ race, was blasted for creating and promoting the controversial event that advocated the targeting of illegal immigrants. The “catch an illegal immigrant game” called for participants to seize student volunteers wearing “illegal immigrant” labels. They would receive a $25 gift card for each “illegal” they apprehended.
According to Garcia, the event, which was posted on the Young Conservatives of Texas Facebook page and was scheduled to be held on Wednesday November 20, 2013, was meant as a means to increase awareness about illegal immigration.
When asked how the idea for the “game” came to him, Garcia told Buzzfeed:
“I’ve been thinking about the event for a while since President Obama said he wanted to pursue amnesty after health care,” he said. He read on Drudge Report that “a Democratic congressman is on the record saying amnesty is the key for saving Obamacare.”
“It made me think about illegal immigration in general and how much they put into the system and how much they take. I thought it would be a good way to spark the debate at UT by having an event such as this.”
Shortly after news of the event began to circulate, the University of Texas Faculty Council overwhelmingly endorsed a statement by University president Bill Powers stating that the event was not representative of the values and standards upheld by the University. “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.”
On Tuesday morning, Garcia released a statement on behalf of the YCT announcing that the event had been cancelled. He alluded to safety concerns by stating that he “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 went on to add, “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 is now portraying himself as a victim of the opposition. “I have been shocked at the uproar over the event’s premise and at the personal attacks against me,” he 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.”
If Mr. Garcia would like to talk about disgraceful, he may want to start with the type of events that his organization is promoting. There is room enough for all viewpoints in our country. Having open, meaningful dialogue is the best way for both sides to achieve some type of understanding about the others perspective on the subject. Respect goes a long way. Maybe that can be Garcia and YCT’s new “radical” idea – treating immigrants with dignity – illegal or not.