RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
The Republican Club at New York University staged a provocative event yesterday. The game was called Find the Illegal Immigrant. Students could take on the role of immigration agents hunting one person on campus who was wearing a sign reading, illegal immigrant. The event brought out demonstrators in support of actual immigrants, and provoked charges that the game was obnoxious and even racist.
NPR's Margot Adler reports.
MARGOT ADLER: It may well be that the vast majority of Americans oppose the illegal immigration, but many New Yorkers believe their city's energy is driven by immigrants both legal and illegal. So a Find the Illegal Immigrant game was bound to cause a sensation, and it did.
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.
Mr. JEFF CIPRIANI (Member, College Republican Club, New York University): They're going to go to class. They're going to go to work, and they're not going to act as if anything's different. The first person to discover the illegal immigrant, they're going to get the prize.
Unidentified Man: Immigrant rights, under attack! What do we do?
Unidentified Group: Stand up, fight back.
ADLER: A couple of hundred protesters decided to make gaining that prize much more difficult. Many of them wore nametags with the words, illegal immigrant. They also held signs like, catch me if you can, racism is not a game, and who are you calling immigrants, pilgrims?
Monica Duff, an NYU freshman, was wearing one of those signs.
Ms. MONICA DUFF (Freshman Student, New York University): Their plan was to have people walking around with tags saying, you know, I'm an illegal immigrant. So we're doing just what they want, except we're putting it on their faces in a bad way.
ADLER: Wesley Chan, a member of the Republican Club, was holding a banner protesting illegal immigration.
Mr. WESLEY CHAN (Member, College Republican Club, New York University): Both my grandparents and parents from both sides had to wait on line. I'm a first generation American. I'm proud of that. And for these people to cut a line is basically wrong.
ADLER: Sarah Chambers, the president of the NYU College Republicans, talked to reporters and was elated by the event.
Ms. SARAH CHAMBERS (President, New York University College Republicans): Look around. I understand that people are upset with the fact that we're using a game to draw attention to this issue, but I guarantee you that if we had had a debate about this, all of you people will not be standing here right now. And all these people will not be out here protesting that right now. So however you want to disagree with our methods, it is creating a dialogue, and that is the main purpose of this event.
ADLER: As for the racism charge, Chambers said that illegal immigrants were of all nationalities. But Donald Connelly(ph), a junior film student at NYU, begged to differ. He found some of the club's statements anti-Latino.
Mr. DONALD CONNELLY (Junior Student, New York University): The way that they're going about their presentation and their dialogue is just very offensive to a lot of people, and not just the students on this campus, but just nationwide.
ADLER: Little discussions were taking place among the people in the street. Among those in this one are Sarah Gross(ph), Derin Hamilton(ph), and Steve Pegeissi(ph). All students are employees of NYU.
Ms. SARAH GROSS (Student and Employee, New York University): I thought America was supposed to be based of the land of the free.
Mr. DERIN HAMILTON (Student and Employee, New York University): The Supreme Court said, obviously, the rights of your country to have (unintelligible) holds more weight than the right of people from a foreign country to come into your country.
Mr. STEVE PEGEISSI (Student and Employee, New York University): We do not riots here over Irish immigrants, Italian immigrants, Eastern European immigrants?
Mr. HAMILTON: If I knew would say illegal immigration - they wouldn't be here if illegal immigration was totally, you know, shut down. They wouldn't be here.
ADLER: In the end, no matter what your view, at the corner of Washington Square Park, dialogue had its day.
Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.
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