By Karla Casique
In the midst of uncertainty and chaos, Latinx students at this university are using their voices to protect and defend their communities, despite the adversity ignited by the results of the presidential election.
After President Obama leaves the White House on Jan. 20, 2017, President-elect Donald Trump promises to deport over “2 to 3 million” criminal undocumented immigrants — which has proven to be a wrong — and terminate executive actions such as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
“It’s going to affect my family, my friends and people that I know because of the idea that Trump spreads especially in terms of race and immigration,” said Elizabeth Garcia, a senior community health major. Garcia is also the president of the Coalition of Latinx Student Organizations (CLSO).
According to his official website, he will also end sanctuary cities, such as Los Angeles and Baltimore. The term indicates the city will not cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in tracking down undocumented immigrants. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray pledged to keep the city safe for undocumented immigrants, not backing down from his decision even when Trump said in his first 100 days in office he will cut federal money given to these cities.
Over 400 hate crimes occurred since Nov. 8 according to a national civil rights organization. Most of these were deemed as “anti-immigrant,” referencing Trump’s accusations of Mexicans being criminals and rapists and of “building a wall” on the Mexican and U.S. border.
“[It] makes me disappointed in this country because they voted for this man who has terrible morals,” said Jessica Escalante, a senior criminology and criminal justice major. “Everything that he stands for and his supporters have come out of their shell even more.”
One of the fears is that Trump will terminate DACA, which will make recipients vulnerable to deportation if the policy from USCIS gets lifted and ICE will have access to their information, leading to mass deportations.
On Nov. 17, Pew Research Center claimed 7.3 percent of students from kindergarten through 12th grade in the U.S. have at least one undocumented parent. This indicates 81 percent of students are U.S.-born and, therefore, citizens. If Trump’s deportation plans become a reality, it would tear apart 3.2 million families.
Student leaders from a variety of organizations at this university, ranging from The Pride Alliance to the Muslim Students Association, met and created a coalition called “Protect UMD.” They organized a walk-out Nov. 17 demanding that the campus become a “sanctuary campus” for all marginalized communities. The biggest demand was for the administration to not cooperate with ICE in giving them information about undocumented students.
“We are not just going to accept things for what they are,” Garcia said. “We are fighting for our rights, we are fighting for what we believe in.”
Students flooded the campus starting from McKeldin, marching around the mall and stopping in front of the Administration Building, ending in front of the Frederick Douglass statue in Hornbake Plaza. Many were carrying signs that read “Undocumented, Unafraid” and “Immigrants are Welcomed Here.”
There are “a little over” 100 undocumented students at this university, according to an email President Loh sent Nov. 21. The email explained the purpose of DACA and the Maryland Dream Act, which gives in-state tuition to undocumented students.
Loh asked for people to urge leaders to “continue the DACA youth initiative” and ended with a phrase in Spanish, even though not all people affected by these changes are Latinxs.
The day after, Protect UMD released the demands of over 25 student organizations, including CLSO and PLUMAS, to social media where students and interested parties can view and share it.
“We as a community have been organizing for years for immigrants in this country and we have been successful — we have been able to pass the Maryland Dream Act and we were able to convince President Obama to pass DACA,” said Erica Fuentes, a senior government and politics major.
“If anything, this has just empowered our community more to stand together and to unite and to bridge relationships with other communities that are also being affected by this election.”
Fuentes paused and continued: “If they think that the immigrant community, that the Latinx community, is going to throw in the towel this easily, they are incredibly mistaken.”
Featured Photo Credit: Students chanted “stand up, walk out, we will protect this house” during the walk out on Nov. 17 demanding this university become a “sanctuary campus” for marginalized communities. (Joe Duffy/Bloc Photographer)
Karla Casique is a junior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.