Actress America Ferrera was greeted by excited cheers as she took to the bullhorn at the University of Texas in Austin on Wednesday.
The “Ugly Betty” star showed up to support student DREAMers at a pro-immigration rally. The event was held in response to the controversial “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Game” that had been planned — then cancelled — by campus conservatives.
Ferrera said she was inspired by the students who mobilized to speak out for the movement.
“As many kids as were going to show up and play that ridiculous game, there are many more students here today in support of real dialogue,” said Ferrera.
Students and supporters, who numbered in the hundreds, came out as a counter protest to a planned event by the Young Conservatives of Texas UT chapter.
According to the original plan, group members would have worn shirts or signs that said “illegal immigrant.” Students who caught them would have received $25 gift cards.
But after student outrage and university condemnation, the conservative group cancelled its plans.
Instead, pro-immigration activists took to the campus with signs and chants. The day turned into a pro-immigration rally with no public opposition from the conservative students.
“It’s not a game” was the rallying cry repeated by students who felt the conservative student group was making light of immigrant issues.
“It was incredibly offensive to us, because that’s not the way you start a conversation about undocumented immigrants,” said Javier Huamani, treasurer of the University Leadership Initiative, a campus group that advocates for young undocumented immigrants.
The Young Conservatives of Texas chapter at UT-Austin did not return calls and emails requesting an interview or comment.
However, chairman Lorenzo Garcia previously issued a statement saying he was concerned for their safety and standing at the university.
“They are concerned that the university will retaliate against them and the protest against the event could create a safety issue for our volunteers,” he said.
Ferrera attended the rally representing Voto Latino, a group that mobilizes Latino voters. She said that as the daughter of immigrants, she felt a responsibility to use her platform to promote a civil conversation on the campus.
“We have tools to communicate and we don’t have to be fighting the fight on our own in our own little corners of the world,” she said. “We can find each other, and I think that’s a powerful tool for our generation.”