The Faculty of the School of Social Work the University of Texas at Austin were shocked and deeply concerned yesterday about the “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” event organized by the UT Austin chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) for November 20, 2013, on the UT campus. The event involved students receiving a $25 gift card for catching people wearing an “illegal immigrant” label.

Since then, we have learned that YCT has canceled the event because of pressures to do so. YCT spokesperson Lorenzo Garcia released a statement saying that the idea of the $25 reward was “misguided.”

While we are committed to dialogue concerning important and provocative issues, activities of this kind only succeed in dehumanizing millions of people in the US society as well as the many students at UT without documentation. They convey racism and exacerbate the climate of fear and hostility already experienced by immigrants and their families, values that are incongruent with social work, humanity, and the university as an institution of learning.

We strongly support the responses of President Bill Powers and Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement Gregory Vincent, and are pleased that YCT has decided to cancel the event. We encourage YCT and all students to engage in a respectful conversation toward understanding and learning about these issues.