The University of Texas branch of Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) has cancelled its proposed “catch an illegal immigrant” stunt after widespread outrage.
In an e-mail to members, YCT chairman Lorenzo Garcia conceded that the event was “misguided,” but said that it was the potential retaliation he and his group faced that convinced him to cancel the event. He went on to say that he hoped the proposed action would stir up a debate about immigration in Texas.
In the original proposal, volunteers would wear labels that said “Illegal Immigrant.” Other YCT members would then be rewarded with a $25 gift card for each immigrant they were able to “catch” on campus. Reaction from staff and students was swift and unequivocal.
One UT student, Caitlin Gilchrist, quickly offered a counter-proposal on her Facebook: students opposed to the effort would locate all the “illegals,” collect the gift cards, and donate them to the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, which offers help to undocumented families living in Texas.
UT President Bill Powers urged the group to find “more productive” ways of contributing to the immigration debate. Dr. Gregroy J. Vincent, vice-president for diversity and community engagement, accused the group of contributing to the “degradation of our campus culture.”
Republican gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Greg Abbott called the proposal a “repugnant effort” and said that the students at UT-YCT were trivializing the serious nature of the debate on immigration. However one state legislator, Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) said that the proposal was a result of Texas Republicans “fostering disturbing division” in Texas when it came to immigration.
Some members of UT-YCT complained that their First Amendment rights were being violated. I happen to believe that UT-YCT do have the right to hold any form of protest that they wish. After all, freedom of speech is meaningless unless it includes the right to hear that which you most disagree with. However in this case no university official, or judge, or lawmaker at any level ordered the event to be cancelled. Instead, decent and tolerant UT students came together, united in their opposition to this crude and idiotic stunt.
Their public pressure and denunciations of the crypto-racists responsible for this farce were what forced UT-YCT to cancel the event, and that is the essence of the First Amendment.