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Students react to UT’s ‘Catch an Illegal Immigrant’ game

“What do we stand for as a nation? What is the image that we are presenting? We are supposed to be the land of the free and a land of opportunity.” – Louie Villicana, freshman English and American literature major

What started as a game to spark conversation about illegal immigration led to countless heated discussions and debate across the country. UTEP students and faculty have chimed into the conversation.

The Young Conservatives of Texas, a registered student organization at UT Austin, created a Facebook event titled “Catch an Illegal Immigrant.” This event was to take place on Nov. 20. Students involved in the organization were to be labeled with the words “illegal immigrant” and a student would have to catch them and bring them back to the YCT table and receive a $25 gift card. This sparked up a whirlwind of controversy and brought UT Austin to the center of national attention.

The event was cancelled, but that didn’t stop the controversy. Students at UT Austin gathered together on campus on Nov. 20 to stand in opposition of the game and support national immigration reform.

“Considering that it took place at Austin, I don’t think that they thought that it would have such a great impact,” said Hector Campa, junior political science major. “But other places, like here, that are along the border, we took it to another extreme and saw it as something bad.”

Freshman English and American literature major Louie Villicana heard about YCT’s game during a lecture. The topic was brought up by his professor and right away sparked debate within the classroom.

“When I first found out about it, it bugged me,” Villicana said. “This doesn’t give anybody the right to humiliate people. I think this is a humiliation and it made me think ‘what do we stand for as a nation? What is the image that we are presenting?’ We are supposed to be the land of the free and a land of opportunity.”

UTEP’s Dean of Students Catie McCorry-Andalis said it is important to learn from events like this one.

“College is a time to figure out who you are, what you believe in and find out where you want to go in your life,” McCorry-Andalis said. “These types of scenarios help that growth happen and often the most controversial types of issues are the ones that really help students wrap their minds around their belief systems, their morals, their values.”

She said UTEP and UT Austin follow the same free speech and assembly rules and said UTEP students should practice their First Amendment rights—especially in a college setting—but should think rationally about what they choose to say.

“We have a culture on our campus that is very different, I don’t foresee an organization wanting to do that just because of the makeup of our campus and who we are,” McCorry-Andalis said. “But if they did—and not just about this issue but any issue that may have a level of controversy—we really sit down with the organization and help them understand what is convenient for them and the questions they are going to get, not only internally but externally…They must be prepared to answer those questions.”

Campa said freedom of speech has its pros and cons and that the topic of illegal immigration is more sensitive in El Paso.

“I’m sure the reason that some of the people here in El Paso find this offensive is because of the issues that we face here, living so close to the border,” he said.

Not all who shared the same beliefs as the young conservatives agreed with their game.

Anthony Vera, a sophomore economics major, attends UT Austin and is also a conservative Republican.

“After reading about the event, I immediately thought that this was a classless and very inefficient way to spark debate about immigration reform,” he said. “There are certainly other ways to bring attention to an issue, but having an event that jokes about the struggles of students all over the U.S. is most definitely not a way to go about public policy. As a Republican and conservative alike, this is not the way to represent our party’s ideals, and I strongly resented the event.”

Amanda Guillen may be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Amanda Guillen, Editor-in-Chief
Amanda Guillen is a senior multimedia journalism major with a minor in women's studies. She was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and graduated from El Paso High School in 2011. She has been a part of The Prospector since summer 2013 and is currently Managing Editor. She has always had a passion for journalism and plans to become a television news reporter upon graduating from UTEP. In addition to being a full-time student and reporter, she is a part of two honor societies on campus, Alpha Lambda Delta and the National Society of Leadership and Success where she participates in community service regularly. Amanda also interns for KVIA Channel 7 the El Paso affiliate of ABC. Her love for the city of El Paso is something that led her to choose UTEP as her school of choice. She has enjoyed her past 3 years at the university and looks forward to an eventful school year.
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Students react to UT’s ‘Catch an Illegal Immigrant’ game