Illegal immigrants and apologies

Tim Sampson and Tim Sampson

‘Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day’ was the elephant in the room at last night’s immigration debate between the Latino Student Union and the College Republicans.

The debate between three-member panels from each organization focused on historical, economic and legal issues related to America’s immigration policy. But when the floor was opened to questions, the evening quickly returned to the College Republican’s controversial event from last spring.

During ‘Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day,’ members of the College Republicans dressed in T-shirts labeling them illegal immigrants. Prizes were given to those who ‘caught’ them and returned them to a chicken-wire pen outside the Union.

Members of LSU came during the middle of the April 19 event to protest.

Last night’s debate was meant to formally bury the hatchet between the two organizations, but members of the audience were quick to bring discussion back to last spring’s event.

‘Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day was dehumanizing,’ said one member of the audience who said the College Republicans should apologize to the campus for their actions.

Panelist Dan Lipian, chair of the College Republicans, said during the debate that he did express regret to several LSU leaders following ‘Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day’ shortly after it happened.

‘I’ll apologize that people were offended, but I won’t apologize for what we did because we did not intend for it to be offensive,’ Lipian said.

‘Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day’ was meant to be provocative and draw attention, said fellow College Republican and panelist Brian Kutzley during the formal debate.

Kutzley started to explain that after years of attempting to hand out literature on immigration, the College Republicans wanted to do something more ‘fun.’ But upon uttering the word ‘fun,’ Kutzley was cut off mid-sentence by jeers and laughter from the audience.

Prior to the question and answer, the debate focused on several key issues relating to immigration.

NAFTA was a major area of disscussion.

Mike Thorough, one of the LSU panelists, said it was hypocritical of the United States to freely move money accross the border, but not allow laborors to come across to the U.S.

One of the other major topics was how border security contributes to preventing terrorism.

During the debate, Lipian read off a number of incidents in which U.S. authorities arrested suspected terrorists attempting to enter the U.S. from Mexico.

Although the debate itself focused on these and other issues, five of the seven audience questions related to ‘Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day.’

LSU panelist Christina Gutierrez said she was glad the issue came up during the question and answer, but regretted that it was so one-sided against the College Republicans.

‘I was disappointed how the Q’amp;A went,’ Gutierrez said. ‘I wish it had focused more on the issues we discussed.’

But Timothy Messer-Kruse, the chair of the Ethnic Studies Department and the moderator of last night’s event felt the evening was successful overall.

‘I think both sides treated issues with thought and consideration,’ Messer-Kruse said. ‘Passions ran high during the question and answer, but that’s only natural because it’s less controlled than the rest of the debate.’

Editor’s note: Kutzley is a columnist for The BG News.