The Republican Club at New York University staged a provocative and well-attended event Thursday that brought out counter-demonstrators, folk singers, barricades, arguments and reporters galore.
The game was called "Find the Illegal Immigrant." Students could take on the role of immigration agents and find the one person on campus who would be wearing a sign saying "illegal immigrant." The event provoked demonstrations in support of immigrants — and charges that the game was obnoxious — and even racist.
At the start of the event at the edge of Washington Square Park, a couple dozen Republican club members gathered near a table where you could sign up for the game. After an hour, only four had. Jeff Cipriani of the NYU Republican Club said a club member was wearing the sign saying "illegal immigrant."
He said that person would go to class and work, as usual, and the first person to discover him or her would get a prize.
A few hundred protesters decided to make gaining that prize much more difficult. Many of them wore name tags with the words "illegal immigrant." They also held signs that said "Catch me if you can," "Racism is not a game," and "Who are you calling immigrants, pilgrims?"
Monica Doss, an NYU freshman, was wearing one of those signs.
"Their plan was to have people walking around with tags saying 'I am an illegal immigrant,'" she said. "So we are doing just what they want, except we are putting it in their face in a bad way."
Wesley Chan, a member of the Republican club, held up a banner protesting illegal immigration.
"Both my grandparents and parents had to wait on line. I am a first-generation American. I am proud of that," he said. "And just to cut a line is basically wrong."
Sarah Chambers, the president of the NYU College Republicans, was elated by the uproar.
"Look around, I understand that people are upset with the fact that we are using a game to draw attention to this issue, but I guarantee that if we had a debate about this issue all of you (reporters) would not be standing here right now," she said. "And these people would not be out here protesting it right now. So however you may disagree with our methods, it is creating a dialogue, and that is the main purpose of this event."
As for the racism charge, Chambers said that illegal immigrants were of all nationalities.
Donald Connelly, a junior film student at NYU, begged to differ. He found some of the club's statements anti-Latino.
"The way they are going about their presentation, and their dialogue, is just very offensive to a lot of people, and not just students on this campus, but just nationwide," he said.