A Boise State University group has angered area Hispanic leaders and other organizations by promoting a speech with a “food stamp drawing” that requires climbing through a hole in a fence and offering fake identification for a shot at wining a dinner at a Mexican restaurant.
The school’s College Republicans organization is offering the dinner for two to promote a speech it is sponsoring by Canyon County Commissioner Robert Vasquez, a vocal critic of U.S. immigration policy who is planning to run for the U.S. Senate in 2008.
The speech, scheduled for Thursday, is in the midst of the university’s Cesar Chavez Week, sponsored by the Boise State Cultural Center.
As part of the weeklong event, students and professionals who came from a farm-working background will discuss their personal history, and a documentary film follows immigrants traveling to the United States from Nicaragua.
Chavez championed the rights of farmworkers and helped found the United Farm Workers Union. He died in 1993, but events such as BSU’s Cesar Chavez Week are held in many areas in association with Chavez’s March 31 birthday.
The flyer on the College Republicans’ Web site is headlined “America’s Illegal Alien Invasion” and has a picture of Vasquez as well as examples of a resident alien card, a Texas Health and Human Services Medicaid Card, an Idaho driver’s license and a Social Security Card.
It also contains an image of a highway caution sign that has a couple running while dragging a young child.
Above the sign at a slanted angle is “Celebrate Cesar Chavez Week.”
The flyer also contains the dinner drawing information: “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!”
Jonathan Sawmiller, president of the College Republicans, defended the flyer.
“It’s more of an attention-getting device,” Sawmiller told the Idaho Press-Tribune. The group’s Web site calls the dinner drawing “humorous.”
Not everyone is amused.
“It certainly singles out a particular segment of students at the college and I’m pretty sure if you ask Hispanic students, this is beyond the realm of humor,” says Ed Keener, board chairman for The Interfaith Alliance of Idaho, which plans a silent vigil the evening of Vasquez’s speech. “It’s trying to hurt somebody.”
Graciela Fonseca, president of Idaho’s Hispanic Women’s Organization, Mujeres Unidas de Idaho, says many of the group’s members were “outraged” by the flyer.
“It’s kind of mean-spirited,” she says, adding that it makes light of people who have died trying to enter the United States through the Southwests desert regions. She says the flyer will stir up hatred and racism.
“It’s very anti-immigrant,” agrees Maria Mabbutt of the Idaho Hispanic Caucus. “It’s very divisive.”
Vasquez says the promotional flyer is not racist, and that those who think otherwise “find racism in everything that they disagree with.”
— Associated Press
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