Friday, March 23, 2007


The Boise State University College Republicans hosted a lecture by former Canyon County Commissioner Robert Vasquez last night in the Student Union Building. Fliers posted around campus promoting his speech, titled “America’s Illegal Alien Invasion,” have sparked protests.

The student newspaper reports:

"The flier, a copy of which is also posted on the College Republicans Website, invites everyone to 'Celebrate Cesar Chavez Week' by coming to Vasquez’s speech, where a drawing will be held in which participants can win a free dinner by climbing through a hole in a fence.

'Climb through the hole in the fence and enter your false ID documents into the food stamp drawing!' the flier states."

College Republicans President Jonathan Sawmiller feels that although the flier is not politically correct, it is not in fact racist.

Oh really?

Representatives from 18 student and community groups gathered outside the Boise State Student Union Building to protest the language on the flier.

Several speakers said the language on the flier was “offensive,” “racist,” “malicious,” “undignified,” “hateful,” and “dangerous.”

Alicia Clements, a member of Idaho Community Action Network, told the Idaho Press while the flier distressed her, she was even more disappointed when she read that the flier said their comments were all in fun.

“Who would find this funny?” Clements asked. “Racism and prejudice is an extremely painful experience,” she said, speaking from her own life experience.

“This must be challenged. It is dangerous and could ultimately ruin our society,” Clements added.

In a letter to faculty and staff Wednesday, University President Bob Kustra expressed his opposition to the message.

“Unfortunately, a handful of students have engaged in offensive and insulting behavior, most recently with nasty and hurtful fliers announcing a political speech they are sponsoring on campus,” Kustra wrote. “I was shocked when I first heard what was on the flyer and assumed they would take immediate steps to rectify the situation. That they have refused to do so, other than to apologize to a restaurant because they like to eat there, is unconscionable.”

Kustra asked the students to remove the flyers, and to denounce the ad campaign.

The following is from the Times-News (Idaho).

Protesters rally against BSU student group's flier

BOISE, Idaho - Protesters angered by a Boise State University student group's promotional flier _ offering dinner at a Mexican restaurant to those who would "climb through the hole in the fence and enter your false ID documents into the food stamp drawing" _ turned out Thursday night for a rally and vigil.

The College Republicans' flier promoted a Thursday night speech by Robert Vasquez, a vocal critic of U.S. immigration policy who is planning to run for the U.S. Senate in 2008. The student group sponsored the Vasquez appearance, which went on as scheduled.

Neither the College Republicans nor Vasquez, a former Canyon County commissioner, said they found the flier offensive.

About 150 protesters participated in a silent vigil.

Several speakers also addressed a crowd gathered on the patio of the Student Union Building.

"As a Mexican, as an immigrant worker, I am outraged," said Araceli Munguia, a student member of Movimiento Estudiantial Chicano/a de Aztlan. "On the poster, they are making fun of me, my family and my community. We are here because the Republican students think that coming here to look for work is a joke."

Other speakers said freedom of speech comes with responsibility.

"The church is outraged and deeply offended by the racist, mean-spirited and hate-filled propaganda used to promote a dialogue on illegal immigration in our state," said Adriane Wright, representing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise and Catholic Charities of Idaho. "The students clearly crossed the line."

The university president earlier apologized for the flier.

"I apologize most sincerely to those rightly hurt and offended by this controversy," Bob Kustra wrote in a Wednesday e-mail to students, staff and faculty.

The student group refused to remove the fliers, which were distributed around campus and posted on the group's Web site, but did delete the name of the restaurant after Chapala's Mexican Restaurant threatened to sue.

Headlined "America's Illegal Alien Invasion," the flier featured a photo of Vasquez as well as examples of a resident alien card, a Texas Health and Human Services Medicaid Card, Idaho driver's license and Social Security Card.

It also contained an image of a highway caution sign that showed a couple running while dragging a young child.

"Win dinner for two at a local Mexican Restaurant! Climb through the hole in the fence and enter your false ID documents into the food stamp drawing!" the flier read.

Graciela Fonseca, president of Idaho's Hispanic Women's Organization, Mujeres Unidas de Idaho, said earlier that members of her group were outraged.

Maria Mabbutt of the Idaho Hispanic Caucus called the flier "very anti-immigrant."

Kustra's e-mail apology went beyond the public statement the school issued earlier in the week, which said the flier "shows poor taste and judgment."

"Unfortunately, a handful of students have engaged in offensive and insulting behavior, most recently with nasty and hurtful fliers," the president wrote. " ... I was shocked when I first heard what was on the flier. ... I can assure the campus community that steps have been taken to ensure accountability in the approval process for any future event advertisements."

"It's an intellectual inquisition," Jonathan Sawmiller, president of the College Republicans, responded in a statement. "The university is absolutely intolerant of diverse views, and they're trying to silence our political opinions with threats and intimidation."

Michael Esposito, assistant director of student activities, approved the flier for distribution on the campus. He was on leave due to a family emergency and not available for comment, school spokesman Frank Zang said.

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