Volume 76, Number 40 | February 28 - March 6, 2007

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

Protesters decrying the Find the Illegal Immigrant game last week that was held at New York University by the university’s student Republican club.

Protesters call immigrant game insensitive, racist

By Lincoln Anderson

Shouting angry slogans and toting protest placards, hundreds of New York University students came out to voice outrage over a game by the university’s student Republican club that lampooned illegal immigration.

In the game, called Find the Illegal Immigrant, members of the Republican club scoured the campus to find a club member wearing an “Illegal Immigrant” sign. The finder was rewarded with a gift certificate at the college’s bookstore.

“We got the event from other universities that have done it. So it’s really sort of tweaking [it],” said Sarah Chambers, 21, president of the N.Y.U. College Republicans. As she stood shivering in the cold on Washington Pl. by the registration table for the game — for which 10 students had signed up — 300 students across the street circled while shouting their indignation at the event. “Obviously, we expected that at N.Y.U.,” Chambers, from St. Louis, said of the protest.

“It is a drain on social services. It contributes to crime,” she said of illegal immigrants. Asked if the percentage of illegal immigrants who commit crime is higher than that of the country’s population in general, she didn’t immediately have an answer, but just listed other grievances: “Now voting rights are proposed….”

She and another N.Y.U. Republican club member said they support a guest-worker program for illegal immigrants. They said that if their game sparked discussion of the issue, they’d be satisfied.

Around 2 p.m., as the game ended, the protesters marched into Washington Square Park.

Chanting “Black, Latino, Arab, Asian, white! No more, no more, this racist stuff! Defend our human rights!” they made their way to the fountain. As they ringed the fountain’s edge, speakers in the middle commended them for sticking up for the people, as one of them put it, “who feed us, who clean up after us.”

Haley Socha, 21, a history and Slavic studies major, had a couple of I.D. stickers with “Illegal Immigrant” written on them stuck on her jacket, across which was slung her bicycle messenger bag, with a “Vegan” patch on its strap. She scoffed at the game as “a desperate cry for attention” by the college’s vastly outnumbered Republican students.

“They do this periodically to try to bring attention to whatever cause they’re promoting,” she said. “Last year, they had an affirmative action bake sale with different prices for different cookies and who was buying. It would be pathetic if it wasn’t so hateful.”

John Beckman, the university’s spokesperson, said: “At universities, providing a forum for the exchange of ideas — even difficult and unpopular ideas — is a key mission…. Our inclination is always to support free speech. Just as one group of students will conduct this so-called ‘game,’ many others will be expressing their objections by protesting it.”


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