A student Republican club at New York University is planning a “Find the Illegal Immigrant” game tomorrow, sparking complaints of racism and a potential protest.

The object of the game is to be the first to point out a club member wearing a nametag reading “Illegal Immigrant,” with the winner receiving a gift certificate. Students need to show their NYU identification to be deemed “INS” agents in order to search for the person wearing the tag.

Sarah Chambers

“The person that is being the ‘illegal immigrant’ is not an actual undocumented worker or illegal immigrant,” Sarah Chambers, 21, president of the College Republicans, told the New York Daily News. “Just because we don’t want illegal immigrants being able to completely disregard the laws of our country doesn’t make us racist.”

Chambers says the game is provocative, and is meant to get students to pay attention and debate the issue of illegal immigration.

But not everyone on campus is thrilled. Up to 300 students are expected to protest the game, and on a campus online bulletin board, protest organizers said, “We need to show that this type of racist action is completely unacceptable.”

“It’s racist, and embarrassing for NYU,” law student Marcus Amelkin told WCBS-TV.

“I think it’s offensive,” Eugenia Kuri, a senior at NYU who is an international student from Mexico, told the station. “The way they are trying to make their point, a lot of people die trying to cross the border every day. I don’t think it should be made a joke of.”

NYU officials released a statement explaining why the college is allowing the game. Spokesman John Beckman writes:

“At universities, providing a forum for the exchange of ideas – even difficult and unpopular ideas – is a key mission. We hope the debates will be conducted with respect and civility, and will be driven by an impulse to provoke thought rather than anger. Illegal immigration is a totally appropriate topic for debate, though this event seems principally calculated to produce outraged reaction rather than dialogue.

“Our inclination is always to support free speech. Just as one group of students will conduct this so-called ‘game,’ others will be protesting it. At a university, this is exactly the kind of outcome we hope for from engaged students and scholars.”

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