On the night of the Nov. 8 election leading into the early morning hours of Nov. 9, junior community health major Mwewa Sumbwe said she felt "heavy heartache" as she heard Donald Trump — a known opponent of illegal immigration into the U.S. — would be the country's next president. Yet, the reactions of those around her gave her hope.
"I was just reading all the different reactions to [the election] on Twitter, and by the morning, I had to tell myself that this doesn't mean the end," said Sumbwe, who is undocumented but protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. "It just means it's the beginning … this would give people the opportunity to finally mobilize and have a bigger chance for solidarity."
Within less than two weeks, multiple grassroot efforts at the University of Maryland have sprung up to help protect undocumented students. There are 113 undocumented students, graduate and undergraduate, who receive DACA as of this fall semester, communications spokeswoman Crystal Brown wrote in an email. DACA is an executive order allowing undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children to have the ability to work in the country and study at a university.
Just last Thursday, a crowd of more than 300 students gathered on Mckeldin Mall to stage a walkout to show solidarity for marginalized groups that included undocumented students — an effort that proved community members' ability to unify for a common cause, Sumbwe said.
"It was really amazing to see [the walk-out] because it shows you that at least our generation is capable of [mobilizing]," Sumbwe said. "You get this sense of community that people are still allies, and now more than ever, people are joining together."
#UmdDreamers created a change.org petition Thursday as well, which as of Monday had garnered 1,257 signatures from those in favor of protecting undocumented immigrants. The petition asked university President Wallace Loh and Provost Mary Ann Rankin to "support immigrant members of our community and undocumented students" through various actions. Trump had pledged during his campaign to deport millions of undocumented immigrants upon assuming office.
Loh sent an email to the student body Monday afternoon emphasizing that support of undocumented students "is not only the right thing to do. It is the necessary thing to do."
"I ask that the UMD community call on the leaders of our nation to continue the DACA youth initiative," Loh wrote. "We must ask our Federal officials to at least honor the grants of deferred action already approved until such time as Congress enacts immigration reform legislation."
Multiple student organizations have also begun working on plans to protect undocumented students. The Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy office is coming up with a plan to ensure undocumented Terps are safe while on campus grounds, said Yvette Lerma Jones, the Latina/o/x Student Involvement and Advocacy coordinator.
"For the active planning part of it, [MICA] is now considering making a list of people who support undocumented students, who would be willing to make phone calls in case someone does start deportation proceedings," Jones said.
Additional MICA initiatives include making sure that different offices on the campus such as the University Health Center understand the policies and implications for undocumented and DACAmented students, as well as having this university honor the benefits of DACA until the students graduate, she added.
In response to the election results, student organization Political Latinx United for Movement and Action in Society released a statement on its Facebook page on Nov. 11 expressing disappointment and anger with the outcome and hateful speech targeted at minority groups, including undocumented students.
"Today, we are fearful for immigrant and refugee communities, Latinx communities, Muslim-American, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities, all communities of color, LGBTQIA+ individuals, womyn [sic], survivors of sexual assault, individuals with (dis)abilities, and impoverished communities around the world. But we also have hope. We know that our communities will heal and transform this energy into actions," the post read.
The group explicitly cited its support as well for DACAmented students and members of mixed-status families, ensuring that, "We will fight for you. You are not alone and you and your families are here to stay."
In their letter, PLUMAS said it is building a list of plans and demands to protect their undocumented and DACAmented peers on the campus.
This university's Student Government Association has also joined the cause, working to develop a bill to make this university a "sanctuary campus" for undocumented students, according to a Thursday Diamondback article. Universities such as Harvard and Princeton have asked the same of their administration, according to the article.
Sumbwe said although it scares her to possibly lose DACA, she added that she knows her situation doesn't compare to undocumented students who don't even qualify for it.
"When I think about what is going to happen, the reality is that there are other people who don't have, or at the moment don't benefit, from DACA," she said. "I see it as [if there are] those who can survive without DACA, then so can I."