AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A conservative student group at the University of Texas cancelled their "Catch an Illegal Immigrant Game" on Tuesday, saying they feared retaliation by campus officials and counter-protests that could endanger their volunteers.
In the event that had been planned for Wednesday, members of the Young Conservatives of Texas would have worn signs that said "illegal immigrant" and offered $25 gift cards to students who caught them and turned them in to the club.
Group chairman Lorenzo Garcia acknowledged the idea was "over the top" but said students should "not be silenced when they attempt to make their voices heard about an issue that is so important to our futures."
"I believed that our event would spark this discussion on campus," he said in a statement. "I hope that the publicity surrounding the event will create debate among students."
The Texas DREAM Act allows students who were brought to the United States illegally as children to pay in-state tuition at public universities, a provision many Republicans want to repeal. Such students sometimes rally in support of the federal DREAM Act that could provide them with a path to citizenship.
Several groups had planned to protest the game on Wednesday. The Librotraficantes, a Latino activist group in favor of a more open immigration policy, promised to hand out free "illegal immigrant" signs to students so they could collect the gift cards.
On Monday, Gregory Vincent, the university's vice president for diversity, had warned that students who participated in the game would be exercising their freedom of speech "to the detriment of others."
"The YCT is contributing to an environment of exclusion and disrespect among our students, faculty and staff by sending the message that certain students do not belong on our campus," Vincent said in a statement. "If the members of YCT carry out their plan ... they are willfully ignoring the honor code and contributing to the degradation of our campus culture."
University officials welcomed the club's decision to cancel the game.
This is not the first time the Young Conservatives of Texas has used controversial tactics. In September they held an "Affirmative Action Bake Sale" where they charged different prices for the same baked goods based on the buyer's ethnicity and gender.
Texas Democrats seized on Garcia's past employment on Republican Greg Abbott's gubernatorial campaign to criticize him for his views on immigration. But an Abbott spokesman denounced the game, calling it "repugnant" and said Garcia is no longer associated with the Abbott campaign.