Friday, October 13, 2006

U of M Holds "Immigrant Day" Event

U-M holds 'Immigrant Day' event

The State News

Ann Arbor — About 100 protesters gathered at the heart of University of Michigan's campus Thursday evening, chanting "Go home, YAF" in response to a "Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day" event.
The event was hosted by U-M's chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom, or YAF, and took place in a commons area on the campus known as The DIAG.

Two U-M students were dressed in costume for the event. The first, a white male, wore a pirate hat, tattered clothing and a sign around his neck that read "Christopher Columbus." The second, a white female, was dressed in an American Indian costume that included a brown dress, a headband and brown leggings, with feathers in her hair.

When asked who she was dressed as, the girl yelled out and moved her hand back and forth onto her open mouth, resembling a stereotypical American Indian war cry.

It is unknown if the two were members of YAF.

Andrew Boyd, the chairman of U-M's YAF chapter, said the purpose of the event was to create dialogue and accept opposition.

"We want people to ask questions and encourage debate," Boyd said. "It's good to see people use the power of free speech."

He didn't specify what the dialogue would regard.

"This isn't facilitating dialogue," said Rachel Feldman, a U-M English and social science senior. "This is just making people angry."

The U-M Law School's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union posted a flier in Tish Hall, located near The DIAG, encouraging protesters to attend the event and speak out.

"Catch an Illegal Immigrant or xenophobia, intolerance and bigotry?" the flier read. "U-M's Young Americans for Freedom group is sponsoring a game in which a student dressed as an illegal immigrant is chased and captured for prize money. Join us in a peaceful protest against this inhumane activity."

Boyd said there was no prize for "catching" one of the participants. YAF chose Christopher Columbus as one of the costumes because he is an example from a time when borders were crossed and different groups mixed, Boyd said.

"Maybe the natives should have stopped him from coming," Boyd said, while standing on the steps of The Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library after the game concluded. "It's not a perfect example, but maybe something will make it work. All of our parents are immigrants, but illegal immigration is about safety. If we are going to protect our borders, we need to curb illegal immigration."

Boyd tried to speak to the media, but protesters quickly surrounded him and drowned him out.

"Racist harassment: We say no, YAF bigots have to go," the groups yelled.

At one point, Fox 2 News out of Detroit asked the protesters to quiet down so Boyd's statements could be heard.

Co-sponsors of the protest included the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Jamaican Association of Michigan and the Latino Family Services Inc.

Carolina Rizzo, a U-M student from South America who waited five years to get her green card, said immigration is not about protecting the borders but about money and conditions elsewhere in the world.

"It's not that everyone can (immigrate) in a legal way," Rizzo said. "You have to have money and prove that you have money. It's impossible to do it the right way. … They make it harder to become legal, and the only way they can stop illegal immigration is improving conditions in Third World countries."

Boyd was the only group member who spoke on YAF's behalf.

"I don't think (YAF has) any support," said U-M biology senior Susan Lopez. "But if we do nothing, people will think this sort of thing is OK."

Katie Helke, Kristi Jourdan and Ashley A. Smith contributed to this report.

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