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Texas young conservatives group cancels 'Catch an Illegal Immigrant' game

Eric Gay / AP

Students walk through the University of Texas at Austin campus near the school's iconic tower in Austin, Texas.

AUSTIN, Texas — A group of young political conservatives at the University of Texas canceled a game planned for Wednesday called "Catch an Illegal Immigrant" after criticism from students, the university and the state's Republican attorney general.

The Young Conservatives of Texas at the university in Austin planned to stage a fake raid, where players rounded up other players wearing T-shirts labeled "illegal immigrant" and were rewarded with a $25 gift certificate for each person caught.

Lorenzo Garcia, chairman of the Young Conservatives of Texas, UT Chapter, said Tuesday the event was canceled due to concerns that the university would retaliate against the group's members and fears for the safety of participants.

"The idea for the event was intentionally over-the-top in order to get attention for the subject," Garcia said in a statement.

Fellow students slammed the event as an attempt to sow racial rifts on the diverse campus and University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers said in a statement the game was "completely out of line with the university's values."

"Our students, faculty and the entire university work hard both to promote diversity and engage in a respectful exchange of ideas," Powers said in a statement.

The Young Conservatives group are no strangers to controversy. About a month ago, they held an affirmative action bake sale where prices for the same goods varied depending on the race and gender of the buyer.

Immigration has been a hot-button issue for years in Texas, which borders Mexico and where nearly 40 percent of the population is Hispanic.

Under current projections, the Hispanic population could become the majority by around 2030, potentially tipping the political balance in the Republican state to the Democrats.

The campaign supporting Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican who is the front runner for the 2014 governor's race, called the planned game "a repugnant effort."

"Illegal immigration and the failed policies of the Obama administration are not a joking matter. Conservatives should not stoop to the level of liberals," it said in a statement.

U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro, a Democrat who represents the San Antonio area, said the game was typical of ploys used by Republicans to stir ethnic divisions.

"This 'game' points to a growing anti-immigrant sentiment from within the Republican Party in Texas," Castro said in a statement.