General view of the University of Texas Tower on the University of Texas campus on September 21, 2013 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

View of the University of Texas Tower (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) — A conservative student group at the University of Texas has cancelled a controversial event scheduled for Wednesday in which students were encouraged to “Catch an Illegal Immigrant”.

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According to the event Facebook page (which has since been removed), members of the group were to wear signs around campus that say “illegal immigrant”. Any student who “captured” the student and returned them was to receive a $25 gift card.

Lorenzo Garcia, Chairman of the Young Conservatives of Texas-UT Chapter, issued a statement explaining why the group cancelled the event, which was condemned university officials.

“I spoke with our chapter’s members, and they are both concerned that the university will retaliate against them and that the protest against the event could create a safety issue for volunteers.”

While Garcia acknowledges that the decision to issue gift cards was “over-the-top”, he believes the drastic nature of the event was necessary to garner attention for the subject.

“I believed that our event would spark the discussion on campus, and though we will no longer be holding the event, I hope that the publicity surrounding the event will create debate among students.”

The University of Texas released a statement in response to the cancellation.

“The University of Texas at Austin honors the right of free speech for all students. We welcome the Young Conservatives of Texas’ decision to cancel Wednesday’s event and look forward to the group being part of a thoughtful campus discussion about immigration.”

The Texas Democratic Party voiced strong opposition to the event on Monday, alleging that the event was organized by one of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s staffers.

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Abbott responded by denying any involvement with the event.

“Our campaign has no affiliation with this repugnant effort.  Illegal immigration and the failed policies of the Obama Administration are not a joking matter,” said Abbott.

Garcia says he has received numerous emails and comments via social media “filled with obscenity”.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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