Canceled UT game sparks immigration conversation

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by SHANNON MURRAY / KVUE NEWS and Photojournalist ERIN COKER

Bio | Email | Follow: @ShannonM_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on November 19, 2013 at 7:18 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 20 at 5:11 AM

AUSTIN -- University of Texas students planning the controversial "Catch an Illegal Immigrant" game have canceled the event. But some students say this is only the beginning of a conversation surrounding immigration reform. In fact they have several events of their own planned this week.

Students with the University Leadership Initiative are asking state representatives to support HR 15, a bill they say would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented students and families in Texas. Tuesday dozens of them marched from the UT tower to Representative Roger Williams' office near the Capitol.

"I didn't know I was undocumented until about middle school," said student Heriberto Perez. "I lived my entire life in fear."

Perez said because of the Dream Act, he can pay in-state tuition and attend the University of Texas. But still he's here fighting for his and his family's future.

"I want them to hear the human aspect of the people who are affected by immigration. Learn about immigration, learn about the dreamers, learn about the movement," he said.

This week the conversation heated up when the Young Conservatives of Texas organized a campus-wide "Catch an Illegal Immigrant" game.

"They're trivializing something that is really hurtful to a lot of people, it's a lot of people's lives," Perez said.

The game would have allowed students to "catch" others wearing the words "illegal immigrant" in exchange for a $25 gift card.

YCT Chapter Chairman Lorenzo Garcia issued a statement saying, "I believed that our event would spark this discussion on campus. And though we will no longer be holding the event, I hope that the publicity surrounding the event will create debate among students." Go here for Garcia's full statement.

"We encourage students to grapple with controversial issues. We also expect our students to do that in a respectful way and a civil way," said University of Texas VP of Diversity and Community Engagement Dr. Gregory Vincent.

This topic is nothing new on the UT campus. In October students held an "Undocumented Longhorn week." The student government recently passed a resolution, AR 16, in support of undocumented students.

"That was my life. That's my life," said Perez.

These students, including Garcia, say even though The Young Conservatives canceled the event, this conversation is far from over.

His statement continued in part, "Students on college campuses, conservative, liberal, or somewhere in between, should not be silenced when they attempt to make their voices heard about an issue that is so important to our futures."

"It's not a game, it's something a lot of people face every day of their lives," Perez said.

The University's International Office estimates 300 to 400 undocumented students are enrolled at UT Austin.

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