On Wednesday, the campus chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas will offer students $25 gift cards if they can “catch” an undocumented immigrant — a group of volunteers wearing "illegal immigrant" labels.
Lorenzo Garcia, chairman of UT's YCT chapter, said Wednesday's event is not intended to instill anger or promote prejudice, but instead to educate college students about a serious issue.
It's intended to “spark a campus-wide discussion about the issue of illegal immigration and how if affects our everyday lives,” he said in a statement.
But Garcia's own affiliations have raised eyebrows among Texas Democrats. He was formerly a field representative for GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott.
Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch confirmed that Garcia used to hold that post but is no longer with the team. Garcia said despite social media profiles to the contrary, he's no longer working with Abbott.
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa was quick to pounce on the connection, though, calling it an "incredible shame."
"Greg Abbott owes Texas DREAM Act scholars an apology, and he must come out and immediately denounce Wednesday's event," he said. "This style of hatred and fear is not the type of leadership Texas deserves."
The YCT bills itself as a non-partisan youth organization whose legislative priorities include eliminating a state law that allows undocumented immigrants to pay in-state college tuition rates if they graduate from a Texas high school.
In September, the group hosted a bake sale to protest affirmative action where students were charged different prices for baked goods depending on their race.
“No one really knew what was going and many people didn’t really know that race was a factor for UT admissions and other institutions throughout the country,” Garcia said of the September bake sale. “As a result of that bake sale a lot of people learned about [affirmative action]."
He added that the YCT hasn't determined how many gift cards will be awarded in the mock sting or how much money the group will spend on the event.
“The main point of it is to really look into the policy of illegal immigration… and that the laws on the books right now aren’t being enforced to the maximum capacity that we feel they could be,” he said.
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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2013/11/18/conservative-group-hold-mock-immigration-sting-ut/.