AUSTIN, Texas – Students showed up at the appointed time on Wednesday on the University of Texas campus in Austin wearing shirts labeled, “undocumented.”
But they weren't there to play games.
The Young Conservatives of Texas had called for a "Catch an Illegal Immigrant" game on Wednesday afternoon, during which several people were supposed to walk around campus with a label reading “illegal immigrant” while other students were supposed to try to “capture” them.
But after the controversial event was cancelled amid national opposition, protesters showed up instead wearing shirts labeled,“Undocumented.”
More than 300 people showed up to protest YCT’s questionable attempt to spark a conversation about immigration reform.
“They said that this was an event to create dialogue on the issue of immigration, but events like this, they don’t create dialogue,” said Carlos Martinez, a 20-year-old son of undocumented immigrants and a member of the Latino Leadership Council on campus.
“They just create division and an environment of hate," Martinez said.
The protest was organized by the University Leadership Initiative and featured speakers from multicultural organizations on campus, a poetry slam as well as an appearance by "Ugly Betty" actress America Ferrera.
Participants wore “undocumented” shirts and held signs as they chanted “Yes to love, no to hate, 11 million cannot wait.”
The ULI held a meeting Monday evening after news of YCT’s “game” spread via social media throughout the UT campus. The meeting was open to the public, and Martinez said that people of all races and political beliefs – conservatives included – attended.
“They didn’t want YCT to represent them,” he said.
University president Bill Powers and Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement Dr. Gregory J. Vincent both issued statements on Monday condemning the game proposed by YCT, stating that the organization’s actions do not align with the university’s values.
Lorenzo Garcia, YCT chairman, issued a statement on Tuesday saying the game was cancelled.
ULI officer and undocumented student Heriberto Perez, 20, said the purpose of going forward with Wednesday's protest was to educate the public on immigration reform.
“What YCT wanted to do with their event was spark a discussion on immigration,” he said. “We wanted to educate them as to what immigration is, what immigration reform is and what these people go through their entire lives. We wanted to show them that this is not a game – their lives are not a game – and that what they were doing was not right.”
The reaction to YCT’s game was predominantly negative. Student Anita Jamali, 20, said that she did not see a single person in support of the event as she monitored social media on Monday.
“I have a few friends here at UT who have a family member or members that are undocumented. It's not a joke for them. It's real life,” she said. “They are amazing human beings and deserve to be respected.”
The game follows a couple other events on campus this year that can be interpreted as anti-diversity, including an “affirmative action bake sale” also organized by YCT, as well as a couple of incidents in which bleach-filled balloons were thrown at minority students.
Meleena Loseke is a student at the University of Texas at Austin and former intern at Fox News Latino.