Campus group to play 'Catch'

BY ANDREW GROSSMAN

Published September 18, 2006

The University's chapter of Young Americans for Freedom is planning a "Catch an Illegal Immigrant" game on the Diag for next week.

Participants in the game will try to catch a volunteer dressed as an illegal immigrant,

YAF Chair Andrew Boyd said. Boyd stressed that the volunteer will not represent any particular ethnic group.

The winner will receive a $200 cash prize, but Boyd refused to disclose the source of the money.

Last week, The Michigan Daily reported that Morgan Wilkins, an independent contractor hired by the College Republican National Committee to rally Michigan college students, was considering holding "Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day" at campuses around the state.

The Republican National Committee, Democratic National Committee, CRNC and the University's chapters of College Republicans and College Democrats have all denounced the plans.

YAF, a group further to the political right and more extremist than other conservative campus groups, hopes to capitalize on the publicity surrounding the event.

"It's a huge issue right now," Boyd said.

Campus activist groups have already expressed their distaste for the idea.

"The Dems strongly condemn it in every way possible," College Democrats spokesman Ryan Werder said. "After the national anger and campus outrage, you'd think they'd get the hint that their tasteless brand of xenophobia and bigotry just isn't welcome here."

On Friday, the College Democrats, the Michigan Federation of College Democrats and the Michigan Democratic Party called on the CRNC to fire Wilkins at a press conference held on the Diag.

College Republicans Chair Rob Scott also condemned the plans.

"I think it's unfortunate that they would treat such a serious issue like immigration in this light," Scott said. "It's very sensational and doesn't lend itself to open dialogue in the way it should."

But Boyd said the shock value is necessary.

"I think the game may attract a lot of people that just an ordinary speaker may not attract," he said. "I think as many people need to be educated about this as possible."

Playing "Catch an Illegal Immigrant" isn't a new idea.

The Young Conservatives of Texas played the game at the University of North Texas in Denton last spring. But campus outcry put a stop to similar plans at Penn State University and the University of Texas at Austin.

The University chapter of YAF will have help playing the game from its counterpart at Michigan State University.

"We're definitely helping out," MSU YAF Chair Kyle Bristow said.

Bristow plans to repeat the event at MSU. Like Boyd, he said the controversy generated by playing Catch an Illegal Immigrant will draw much-needed attention to the effects of illegal immigration.

"It's a game that the U.S. government needs to play about 13 million times," Bristow said.

Bristow had another idea, but said it would be unrealistic.

"The only thing more effective would be if U of M YAF and MSU YAF were to drive down to the border and start building the wall ourselves," Bristow said. "But that would be a lot of work."

Alicia Benavides, chair of La Voz Latina, a Latino advocacy group, said she disagrees with the notion that the game will create a dialogue.

"It doesn't help anything," she said. "It classifies (illegal immigrants) as objects, not actual people. It makes them like the other, like outsiders, not like human beings."

Benavides said La Voz Latina will probably schedule activities of its own while students play Catch an Illegal Immigrant.

"We'll probably do an educational event and try to explain to people why this is hurtful and hold a productive dialogue about immigration," she said.