Jesuit Colleges and Universities Stand with DACA Young Adults

By Lucas Sharma SJ

As predicted, earlier this morning the Trump Administration announced that it would begin to face out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) status. This program has “provided renewable, two-year work permits to nearly 800,000 dreamers.” Now, they are faced with instability, fear, and another uncertain tomorrow.

President Obama created this program in 2012 through an Executive Order when Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform. In particular, this program has helped many young persons who were brought to the United States as children. Consequently, the United States is the only nation they know and have been part of and "they are American in their heart; in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper." Not knowing their countries of origin, deportation would mean culture shock and likely throw these persons into danger, poverty, and lack of any community connections.

This decision stands in contrast to the values of the Society of Jesus and the Catholic Church. Fr. Timothy Kesicki, SJ, the President of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, issued a pastoral letter following the announcement by the Trump Administration. In the letter directed to DACA students, Kesicki highlighted how these students

have helped us dream too. Because of your example, Jesuits and thousands of lay educators at our schools across the U.S. have dreamed of new possibilities for young people like yourselves who have, in all too many cases, fled violence, poverty and despair.

Echoing statements from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), and many other Jesuit secondary and colleges and universities, Kesicki calls for Congress to enact a solution that is comprehensive and recognizes how “our ancestors in faith were once strangers in a foreign land.”

This decision likely will have negative economic ramifications. James Hohmann of the Washington Post argues that “young people will become undocumented again — eventually losing their work permits, jobs and health insurance and, in many states, their driver’s licenses. The job losses alone — about 30,000 a month.” This will lead to potentially a $460.3 billion decrease in the nation’s GDP over the next ten years.

DACA recipients whose permits expire by March 5th, 2018 can apply for another two year permit, but most do so by October 5th. The Administration is not accepting any new applications. More information about what is next can be found at the Department of Homeland Security website.

Jesuit colleges and universities stand as sanctuaries of truth and justice in a political climate of fear, instability, and rejection of people who are different and undocumented. We must think creatively and quickly to ensure that current undocumented students at our schools feel safe, welcomed, and able to afford our education.

  • What must we do at each of our colleges and universities to ensure that DACA and other undocumented students continue receive a Jesuit education?
  • How do we educate our documented students to be partners with our DACA students as we preserve truth and justice?

The cover image is featured courtesy of Susan Melkisethian of the Flickr Creative Commons.