Abbott condemns former backer's immigration "game"

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by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist MICHAEL MOORE

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on November 18, 2013 at 7:28 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 17 at 12:16 PM

AUSTIN -- The Facebook page for the "Catch an Illegal Immigrant Game" is drawing fire from all directions.

Organized by Lorenzo Garcia, president of the University of Texas branch of the Young Conservatives of Texas, the event is scheduled for noon Wednesday on the campus' West Mall. The Facebook event page describes the "game" as such: 

"There will be several people walking around the UT campus with the label "illegal immigrant" on their clothing. Any UT student who catches one of these "illegal immigrants" and brings them back to our table will receive a $25 gift card. 
 
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."
 
Advocates for immigrant rights condemned the event at a rally Monday afternoon. University Leadership Initiative President Diana Morales is one of many undocumented students legally enrolled at the university.
 
Under Texas law, undocumented students brought to the state illegally as children may qualify for in-state tuition.
 
"I feel very uncomfortable. I feel very ridiculed because I'm an undocumented person, but at the same time I'm a human being," said Morales. "I'm a student. And for them to say that they can just chase anyone who's undocumented, that's very insulting to me and to every single undocumented person who is on campus."
 
Calls to Garcia and several members of the statewide Young Conservatives of Texas organization, as well as the University of Texas branch, were not returned as of Monday evening. Students and faculty on the university's campus voiced universal disapproval.
 
"I think it's a little disrespectful," said student Christina Ruiz. "I think they're making a joke out of it." 
"This wasn't the best way to approach the situation, especially making a mockery of people that deal with this real life situation," said student Daniel Okungbowa.
 
"The proposed YCT event is completely out of line with the values we espouse at The University of Texas at Austin," University of Texas President Bill Powers said in a statement Monday. "Our students, faculty and the entire university work hard both to promote diversity and engage in a respectful exchange of ideas. The Wednesday event does not reflect that approach or commitment."
 
"As Americans we should always visualize our Statue of Liberty and remember that our country was built on the strength of immigration," said Powers. "Our nation continues to grapple with difficult questions surrounding immigration. 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."
 
Meanwhile Democrats quickly pointed out Garcia once worked for Republican Greg Abbott's campaign for governor. The Lone Star Project published a photograph of Garcia and Abbott together, along with an image of a social media profile in which Garcia identified himself as a "field representative" for Texans for Greg Abbott. A spokesperson told KVUE that Garcia left the campaign two months ago.
 
"Our campaign has no affiliation with this repugnant effort," Abbott's campaign said in a statement to KVUE. "Illegal immigration and the failed policies of the Obama administration are not a joking matter." 
 
"Conservatives should not stoop to the level of liberals," the statement continued. "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 may try to deny it all he wants," said Hector Nieto with the Lone Star Project. "I'm sure he probably regrets hiring him now. But the fact is Greg Abbott owns this event because it was from his staff."
 
Students organizing a protest against the event have launched their own Facebook page. As of Monday evening more than 300 people had signed up as "Going" to the Young Conservatives' event.

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