UW Tacoma’s Pre-Law Society will be hosting Our Tacoma Story: Education, Advocacy & Building Communities, the first ever immigration conference at the university. The conference, a two-day event in William W. Philip Hall, will be held May 2 from 9 a.m–1 p.m. and May 3 from  from 9:30 a.m.–6:30 p.m. It will feature several guest speakers and events that will include an informational fair, an art exhibition and a legal clinic.

Senior Karla Vargas, vice president of the PLS, explained the reason for hosting the conference.

“This conference really started with me,” Vargas said. “I have gone through some family stuff, especially being mixed status. We faced many obstacles with the immigration system, and I figured that if I’m going through it, then other people are going through it. We also wanted to educate the community on these [immigration] issues as well. This is my little passion project.”

Since January, the PLS has been planning, finding connections and working hard at preparing for the immigration conference.

“This conference would not be possible without every single person in the PLS, including our advisor [Dr. Sarah Hampson],” Vargas said. “We have put so much work into the conference that it feels like a part time job. I am so grateful for their commitment and passion.”

The PLS has planned many events during the two-day conference, such as a readily available legal clinic, an art exhibition with movies featuring migration and informational fair to educate others.

“We’ll be offering education, resources, volunteer opportunities, and help resources from other student organizations,” Vargas said. “We’ll be offering the legal clinic — a way of opening legal options [for migrants]. It just gives a little more advice on documents that others might qualify for, or just informing you on your next step. Renewing DACA applications and the clinic will be student-assisted, so it’s peer-to-peer.” Immigration attorneys will also be present for consultations and advice.   

Among the activities provided, the conference will also have important keynote speakers speaking on behalf of their cause. They are bringing in Professor Ian Haney Lopez from the University of California Berkeley, as well as Washington state lawmakers such as Justice Steven Gonzalez and Senator Claire Wilson, among others.

Based off of safety measures that need to be taken for the undocumented members of the event, Vargas talked more on the PLS plan to ensure safety by working with Campus Safety & Security for the conference.

“The head of security is going to try to protect everyone at the conference,” Vargas said. “We are watching out for the community, and they will try — at the best of their capacity — to make sure everyone is safe and enjoying their time. Safety procedures have been made.” However, Campus Safety also advises everyone attending the conference to have their own safety plan in place in case of an emergency.

The PLS is also opening up their event to volunteers on campus who want to help. Working with Paul Prociv, civil engagement specialist for the CSL, the Registered Student Organization has been able to offer volunteer hours to students working to obtain their Husky Service Medallion.

“We are offering Husky volunteer hours for those interested in volunteering for the event,” Vargas said. “We [Vargas and Prociv] have come up with the plan to double students volunteer hours, so if you’re doing four hours of work, then you will receive eight hours towards your log.In addition to that, it is a fun way to get connected with community members.”

Our Tacoma Story: Education, Advocacy & Building Communities will start May 2 at  9 a.m. by providing the legal clinic, informational fairs, and art exhibitions with film screenings from UWT’s very own Dr. Sonia De La Cruz, as well as a screening of UWT senior Long Tran’s film “subtle asian* womxn.” May 3, the second day of the conference, will feature the special guest speakers and also include a student panel, a faculty research presentation and a student debate.

“The goal is to build a strong relationship between the community and the university,” Vargas said.

For more information on volunteering for the event, please email uwtpls@uw.edu, or the Center for Service and Leadership csluwt@uw.edu. You can also find a detailed schedule for the event on the UWT Legal Pathways website: https://www.tacoma.uw.edu/legal-pathways-initiative/our-tacoma-story-education-advocacy-building-communities

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