Fr. General Arturo Sousa Calls for Support of Refugees and Immigrants

By Lucas Sharma SJ

As The Atlantic reports, last week 23 year old Daniel Ramirez Medina, brought to the United States as a seven year old undocumented child, was arrested in Seattle, WA on grounds of "alleged gang involvement." With the Obama Administration DACA Program, Ramirez is eligible to stay in the United States via an application process for two year renewable increments. He is one of more than 750,000 young adults currently enrolled in the DACA program. 

The program's impetus follows the urgent need the Obama Administration saw in the experience of these young adults: Given that some arrived as young as infants, could they realistically be deported to another country when the only country they know and have experienced is the United States of America? 

For Jesuit colleges and universities, the question is personal. Given that AJCU schools have many undocumented students - many who arrived to the US as minors, the question of cura personalis is more important than ever. 

Fr. General Arturo Sousa SJ in conversation with young adult refugees. Photo courtesy of The Jesuit Curia in Rome. 

Fr. General Arturo Sousa SJ in conversation with young adult refugees. Photo courtesy of The Jesuit Curia in Rome

Last month on the World Day for Refugees, Fr. General Arturo Sousa SJ spoke about the need to protect migrants, especially those who travel as youth. He invited the Society of Jesus to continue to accompany migrants - and especially to share in the anxieties and hopes migrants experience. In particular, his experiences in Latin America and now Europe highlight his urge that we recognize the plight of migrants and find ways to help them flee situations of violence, oppression, hunger, and war: 

Therefore, the efforts of closely accompanying the refugees and migrants, particularly the young and vulnerable, are close to my heart. I wish to encourage and promote efforts that ensure the protection of life and the hope of the child and adolescent refugees, especially those recruited by traffickers to convert them into the so-called baby-traffickers.

In an Administration whose policies have made many migrants feel anxious and fearful, Jesuit universities and colleges can continue to be place that can stand as beacons of hope and safety for students - especially for DACA students whose security is threatened. Kamal Essaheb of the National Immigration Law Center suggests ways to do this - including educating students about legal processes.

Though the Trump Administration has pledged to act "with heart," Fr. General's call suggests that our schools might live out the Gospel cry to "welcome the stranger" by supporting all efforts that protect the dignity of the DACA and other undocumented students in our communities.  The question is clear: How might our schools have the difficult conversations about how to support these students and take necessary action to ensure they feel welcome, safe, and protected by our institutions?