On Tuesday, September 5 the Trump Administration announced that they are repealing the DACA program-which will affect 800,000 undocumented young people.
Standing with the Dreamers, Fr. Timothy Kesicki, S.J., president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, released a letter from the Jesuits regarding this decision to repeal DACA. He said that “now more than ever, we commit ourselves to living out God’s law, which calls on us to love the stranger, remembering that our ancestors in faith were once strangers in a foreign land.” The letter speaks of the ways that Dreamers have positively affected Jesuit institutions and how these institutions will continue to support comprehensive immigration reform.
The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities released a similar statement regarding the Jesuit mission to protect and commit to educating undocumented students.
Jesuit institutions across the nation have come together in solidarity with the Dreamers by hosting rallies and prayer vigils. Presidents of Jesuit universities have issued statements regarding DACA with many calling on Congress to act as soon as possible in order to provide a future for undocumented young persons.
Join Ignatian Solidarity Network on Thursday, February 16 at 3 PM EST for an online conversation with Jesuit college and university faculty and administrators on how to support students who are undocumented. A new political landscape in the U.S. has brought with it unique realities for people in the without documentation, including students at Jesuit colleges and universities. How are faculty and administrators responding to the changing reality facing these students?
The Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs Office at Loyola University Chicago , partnering with the Ignatian Solidarity Network, have shared a video presentation from their “Undocumented Students Ally Trainings” program. This video focuses on skills to understand the value and importance of exploring the experiences and perspectives of undocumented students. The training session aims to generate knowledge for self-learning and to increase on-campus support for undocumented students.
At Loyola University Chicago, upon completing the training, trainees receive a placard that recognizes them as allies and as points of support for undocumented students on campus. The goal is that participants display these placards in their work area to invite questions and/or dialogue about the issues that impact this community. For more information, see the blog post from Ignatian Solidarity Network.
Over 100 Catholic college and university presidents have signed a statement of support of undocumented students. The statement, sponsored by ACCU, pledges support of students who have been approved for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and expresses hope that their studies will be allowed to continue uninterrupted. Those who signed “pledge to support these students – through our campus counseling and ministry support, through legal resources from those campuses with law schools and legal clinics, and through whatever other services we may have at our disposal.”
The statement reflects on Pope Francis’ commitment to immigrants and refugees, especially in his recent visit to the United States. The statement included signatures of presidents of Catholic colleges and universities from across the country. They find support in the long history of American Catholic higher education institutions educating students from diverse backgrounds and welcoming those on the margins.
In response to the heated political debate on the issue of immigration, Archbishop of Los Angeles José H. Gomez, in a September lecture at Boston College, spoke of the importance of not letting statistics cloud our vision of the people who make up the numbers. Gomez explained that it is a Christian call “to remember that behind every statistic is a soul — a soul who has dignity as a child of God, a soul who has rights and needs that are both spiritual and material.”
Catholic universities are embracing this person-centered approach through their policies and programs by welcoming students who are immigrants. By offering support and resources, institutions like Saint Peter’s University, Christian Brothers University, and Dominican University are creating equal opportunities for immigrants, including undocumented students, as well as providing educational programming on the complexity of immigration.
Saint Peter’s University has responded to the needs of undocumented students by opening the Center for Undocumented Students (TCUS). Jennifer Ayala, director of the center, explained, “The mission of TCUS is to support the academic work of undocumented students at the university, to shed intellectual light on the political and economic realities of immigration in our world today, and to create a community where undocumented students feel welcome.” Resources available through the center include a modest resource library, legal support, referrals and collaborations within the university as well as with outside organizations, internships, workshops for staff and faculty, “know your rights” workshops for students and their families, and advising and mentoring. TCUS also helps students find ways to pay for their education because undocumented students do not qualify for state or federal aid. In September, TCUS co-sponsored a student-organized conference, United Struggles, that educated students on community organizing as a way to engage politically and intentionally with the issue of immigration. TCUS has also recently co-authored a letter urging the university administration to declare Saint Peter’s a sanctuary campus.
Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D., president of Saint Peter’s, pointed out the continuity of the center’s mission with the university’s Jesuit legacy: “Saint Peter’s has proudly educated immigrant students since it first opened in 1872 and seeks to continue and enrich this tradition by extending its welcome and support to undocumented students, otherwise known as dreamers. We are proud to be a part of the large group of Jesuit colleges and universities that continue to advocate for dreamers.”
Christian Brothers University (CBU) is another college providing support through scholarships and a place of community to address the issue of immigration, focused specifically on the needs of Latino immigrant students. Two scholarships are available through the institution’s Latino Student Success Program: the Latino Achievement Scholarship for FAFSA-qualified students and the Latino Success Scholarship for non-FAFSA-qualified students. CBU has committed $12 million in scholarships and grants over seven years to serving undocumented students, funding that will benefit over 100 students. The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics has recognized CBU as an exemplary case for implementing programs that support the expansion of high-quality education for Latinos. Executive director of the White House Initiative, Alejandra Ceja, commended CBU as “the first institution of higher education [that] has publicly answered our national call for commitments.” A student-led organization, Hola CBU, also provides support for students on campus and in the local community. Hola CBU hosts events to expose the campus to Latino culture and create a welcoming Latino community. The group also partners with a local organization, Latino Memphis, to provide services like interpreting and standardized test tutoring for high school seniors.
Paul Haught, vice president of academics and student life at CBU, connected these programs to the Catholic identity of the institution, saying, “Christian Brothers University, as an institution founded on the Lasallian mission of providing educational opportunities to the underserved, continues to advocate for the education of all who stand to benefit their communities by gaining the benefits of higher education. So-called undocumented students belong to this class as much as anyone. If they are college ready, we invite them to share in CBU’s gifts of teaching and service.” CBU supports undocumented students, not only with scholarships, but also with a vibrant community. This dual approach recognizes the many needs of students during their time in college.
Lastly, Dominican University was recently honored with the Moral Courage Award from the nonprofit organization Faith in Public Life for its leadership in supporting the right of undocumented students to receive a college education. For Dominican President Donna Carroll, the students are the courageous leaders and the university is called to “stand with them” to fulfill its mission to give compassionate service and create a more just world.
In spring 2016, Dominican facilitated a border immersion trip called Borderlands to deepen engagement with the human and societal consequences of immigration — outcomes that often can be understood only by witnessing firsthand the circumstances of a border community. The program was partially funded by a Global Solidarity Grant, a collaboration between ACCU and Catholic Relief Services that awards funding to Catholic colleges and universities to increase awareness of global injustice and expand student involvement in bringing about change. During the Dominican University trip, students traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana to learn about the social issues present in migration, specifically for people migrating from Central America and Mexico to the United States. Before they traveled, the team of students spent time in prayer and learning about Catholic Social Teaching on immigration. During the trip, students were able to meet people directly involved in immigration, including some who had been deported and some who were preparing to immigrate to the United States.
After they returned, the students shared their experiences at the 2016 Dominican University Caritas Veritas Symposium. Atzimba Rodriguez, a senior in psychology and criminology, spoke during the symposium of the effect that meeting people in Tijuana had on her. She commented, “If anything, we are a bridge, a bridge between two worlds.” While the border stood as a division between the United States and Mexico, the relationships that the students built while in Tijuana emerged as a sign of unity.
Catholic universities are welcoming immigrants to campus and ensuring that they have tools for success. Examples such as those of Saint Peter’s University, Christian Brothers University, and Dominican University show how the goal of providing equal opportunity is realized through programs that promote leadership and provide resources that aid immigrants, including undocumented students. In the midst of the debate on immigration and educational inequality, Catholic universities are making a difference by providing for the needs of students and educating the community on the complexity of these social issues.
Camilla MacKenzie is an undergraduate student at The Catholic University of America and the Peace and Justice Intern at the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.
Loyola University Chicago recently announced a new scholarship offered to undocumented students. Initiated by the University’s Latin American Student Organization (LASO) and the student government, the Magis Scholarship Fund was approved by the University board of trustees in December 2015. The students involved in initiating the scholarship fund hope to alleviate some of the financial challenges undocumented students face, as well as encourage conversations about migration in and out of the classroom.
The Fund consists of a $2.50 student fee per semester and will raise about $50,000 a year. The funds will then be given to undocumented students approved for protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The renewable scholarship will help cover the cost of tuition, room and board, and student fees for a year for five students.
The word magis, meaning ‘more’ in Latin, is especially important to Loyola University Chicago as a Jesuit institution. In an interview with Fox News Latino Flavio Bravo, former president of the University’s student government, expressed that the decision to use magis in the name came from the fact that it is a “Jesuit tenet” which encourages all “to give and do more for the community.”
Saint Peter’s University (NJ) has announced the opening of The Center for Undocumented Students (TCUS). The new center strives to support the academic work of undocumented students at the university, shed intellectual light on the political and economic realities of immigration in our world today, and create a community where undocumented students feel welcome. TCUS works with community organizations, government agencies, high schools and other Jesuit colleges and universities to create better access to higher education and increase retention rates among undocumented youth. As noted in the article from the Jesuits USA Northeast Province, the Center offers a way for Saint Peter’s University to live in a more intentional community with undocumented students, better accompanying them and supporting them as they pursue their dreams of higher education.
Learn more about Saint Peter’s new Center for Undocumented Students in the university’s press release!