Editor's Note: Thanks to pushback from students, the University president, and faculty in departments like the Latin American Studies department, the event was cancelled. There is still going to be a counter protest in solidarity with immigrants. Information can be found here.
Sadly, this headline is not a joke.
The Young Conservatives of Texas is staging a mock immigration sting Wednesday on the University of Texas at Austin’s campus. According to YCT’s Facebook event, these are the rules of the game: “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 student group has a history of controversial and insensitive demonstrations. In September, YCT held a bake sale in protest of affirmative action, charging students different prices for the baked goodies dependent on their race.
Lorenzo Garcia, the chairman of the campus chapter of YCT, has been reported as saying that he organized the event with the intention to “spark a campus-wide discussion about the issue of illegal immigration and how it affects our everyday lives.”
He has certainly succeeded in sparking a discussion, but he’s also highlighted the deep-seated prejudices at the root of much of the opposition to immigration reform. Rather than have a serious “discussion,” ignorance will be perpetuated.
Of course, the daily fear that terrorizes immigrant families worried about being torn apart by deportation is likely to go unaddressed by this stunt. I doubt ripping children born in the U.S. from the arms of their undocumented parents will be part of the event. Nor will the ways that workers are exploited in the workplace be a major focus.
Thankfully, there has been considerable uproar on social media in response to the group’s plans. On the group’s Facebook page, one commentator echoed Matthew 25 by noting that ultimately God will judge us “on how we treated others.”
If YCT truly wants to promote meaningful dialogue around the issues of undocumented immigrants and immigration reform, the group must stop engaging in activities that only perpetuate the negative status quo of stereotypes and xenophobia. If real reform is sought, YCT’s members should be the first ones to offer a forum where honest conversation can be heard by all sides.
For those within a faith community, we must remember that all people are children created in the image of God. Each person has a priceless inherent worth and dignity. Whenever that is threatened by another group, it is an attack on God’s own character. This is a lesson that the Young Conservatives of Texas still need to learn.
Anna Hall is campaigns assistant for Sojourners.