PLUMAS is hosting a gala Monday to raise money for undocumented students’ legal fees in response to President Trump’s immigration policies, which have left many non-citizens uncertain about their futures in the U.S.
The Dream Gala, which will be in the Nyumburu Cultural Center’s multipurpose room, will launch a larger crowdfunding effort to help expand legal resources for students at the University of Maryland who might be at risk during Trump’s presidency. Trump has promised in the past to scrap programs such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows young immigrants who meet certain qualifications to work and study in the U.S. in two-year blocks.
“It takes a really long time for an administration to get things established, so having legal funds for undocumented students — just in case anything happens — it’s really beneficial for our community,” said Karla Casique, a junior journalism major. “This gala would be able to incorporate faculty and staff and students who are just interested to learn more, to ask questions, but also just to donate because it is a really important cause.”
At the gala, group organizers will introduce themselves and their co-sponsors so people know where they can go to for a safe space if they need support, said Jocelyn Nolasco, a sophomore government and politics major and member of Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society. The event will also feature diverse, cultural live performances and food.
After the election, undocumented students and international students were left as “some of the most vulnerable people,” she said, referencing Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids and Trump’s campaign promises to increase deportations. The diverse performances are meant to show the people being affected aren’t all from one race, she said.
“One of the issues when it comes to undocumented students is that people think it only happens in the Latino community,” Nolasco said. “We wanted to make sure this wasn’t portrayed as a Latino issue to break that stereotype.”
Eighty-one percent of the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are from Latin America, according to the Pew Research Center. At this university, there are 113 DACA students as of fall 2016 and 20 students covered under this state’s DREAM Act.
Nolasco noted PLUMAS will not use any of the money raised for itself — all proceeds will go toward legal fees. There is an undocumented coalition on the campus composed of students and staff, and that group will facilitate the process, she said.
“Immigration is just something that’s like a family topic to a lot of us, and we wanted to be able to show people that we may not be going through this process, but we are staying with you in whatever way possible,” Nolasco said.
Casique, who is president of the American Indian Student Union, said PLUMAS has been working to advocate for the undocumented community for years, and added the gala is necessary in this political climate. Groups such as the African-American studies department, Latin American Studies Center and Muslim Political Alliance are also acting as sponsors for Monday’s event.
In spring 2016, PLUMAS held a donation drive for child migrants, and fasted leading up to a Supreme Court decision on whether to unfreeze Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and DACA.
Janelle Wong, American studies professor and Asian American Studies Program director, said the gala sends a message of unity to the campus community during a time when some people may be feeling vulnerable or frightened. For Wong, this example of student involvement and leadership is something that will have widespread effects.
“One of the important things to understand about the gala is it’s really a great example of student leadership and student organizing,” she said. “This kind of experience — supporting other students but also organizing an event — those are things that students will take well beyond this moment and hopefully well into the future.”
Tickets are $10 for students and $12 for faculty and staff. People can get tickets either from a PLUMAS member or through the event’s Facebook page.