AUSTIN, Texas) — A University of Texas student has ignited controversy for a planning a “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” event on the school’s campus Wednesday.
As the name implies, the event will be a mock effort to “catch” people walking around campus with “illegal immigrant” pins on their clothing and turning them in for a $25 reward.
“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,” wrote the organizers on the group’s Facebook page.
Lorenzo Garcia, the student who created the event, is the chairman of the UT chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas. And according to the Texas Tribune, he worked as a paid employee of Attorney General Greg Abbott’s gubernatorial campaign but is currently not on the campaign’s staff.
The Abbott campaign did not respond to ABC News’ request to confirm Garcia’s past employment. But Garcia has posted several photos on his Facebook page with Abbott and wearing campaign memorabilia. Garcia also did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
But in a statement, the campaign denounced the event.
“Our campaign has no affiliation with this repugnant effort,” campaign press secretary Avdiel Huerta said in a statement. “Illegal immigration and the failed policies of the Obama Administration are not a joking matter.”
“Conservatives should not stoop to the level of liberals, whose shenanigans at the Texas Capitol this summer, including chants of ‘hail Satan’ during Senator Davis’ filibuster to allow abortions after five months, did nothing but sidetrack the Texas Legislature,” he added.
The comments on the Facebook page are almost universally negative.
“Wait, no. This has to be a joke. You’re telling me multiple people in that club conferred and all of them concluded that this was a good idea?” wrote one commenter Ashwin Ramdas, a student at UT.
“This is just wrong. … I am 100 percent republican but you just took it way to [sic] far,” wrote another commenter, Victor Garcia.
In a statement Monday, UT’s Vice President of Diversity and Community Engagement Gregory J. Vincent said that the “game” would be a violation of the university’s honor code.
“[O]nce again in trying to be provocative, 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. “Some UT Austin students are undocumented, and under Dream Act legislation signed into law in 2001, these students are entitled to attend state universities.”
“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,” he added.
In September, the YCT prompted a similar response from the university when it planned a bake sale where goods were sold to customers at prices based on their race and gender in an attempt to highlight the group’s opposition to affirmative action policies.
The Texas Democratic Party also pounced on the reported connection between Garcia and the Abbott campaign.
“Greg Abbott has already put fear into the hearts of hardworking college students in Texas, through his refusal to take a real position on the Texas DREAM Act,” said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa. “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.”
“And now one of his staffers is organizing theatrical arrests on [campus]. Our young and promising DREAM Act scholars already live in enough fear of Abbott, without his staff also forcing them to watch mock arrests,” he added.
Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis is also running in 2014 to succeed Republican Gov. Rick Perry.
Copyright 2013 ABC news Radio
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Tom LoBianco, Deirdre Walsh and Tal Kopan, CNN
Jethro Mullen, Ravi Hiranand and Frank Pallotta, CNN