Presidents of 27 Jesuit colleges and universities pledged themselves to “protect to the fullest extent of the law undocumented students on our campuses” and to “promote retention of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program” in a statement released on Nov. 30. The presidents said they also would “support and stand with our students, faculty and staff regardless of their faith traditions.”
The Jesuit statement joins two other recent position statements from university presidents who have taken a stand in support of the nation’s so-called Dreamers, young adults who had been brought without documentation into the United States as children. One statement, signed by more than 70 college and university presidents, was released through the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.
The school presidents acted in anticipation of a crackdown on undocumented young people when President-elect Donald J. Trump assumes office in January. Many worry that the president-elect may follow through on campaign pledges to rescind President Obama’s executive orders and seek widespread deportations of undocumented people. The DACA provisions had been implemented by the Obama administration to address the special case of adults brought as children into the United States. Many face deportation to countries and cultures they have never known.
In an attempt to head off the possible intervention against DACA by the incoming Trump administration, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, is readying legislation that would extend legal protections to the 740,000 young people who have been shielded from deportation by President Obama’s 2012 executive order.
In the statement released by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, the presidents wrote, “Grounded in our Catholic and Jesuit mission, we are guided by our commitment to uphold the dignity of every person, to work for the common good of our nation and to promote a living faith that works for justice.”
The presidents said that their institutional roles represented a sacred trust that “prompts us to labor for solidarity among all people and especially with and for the poor and marginalized of our society...[and] calls us to embrace the entire human family, regardless of their immigration status or religious allegiance.”
The presidents said that in addition to the spiritual and moral call to defend DACA, “experience has shown us that our communities are immeasurably enriched by the presence, intelligence, and committed contributions of undocumented students, as well as of faculty and staff of every color and from every faith tradition.”
Regarding a potential federal pushback against the institutions because of their stand on undocumented students once the new administration moves into power in January, the A.J.C.U. spokesperson, Deanna Howes, said, “Certainly the presidents are aware of the political climate and things that are going on right now, but as the statement says: This is part of our Jesuit heritage and mission”—to support all students regardless of their legal status. She described the position as “very much in keeping with the character of Jesuit institutions.”
Signatories to the A.J.C.U. statement included all the member presidents with the exception of William Leahy, S.J., of Boston College.
Jack Dunn, the Boston College spokesperson, said Father Leahy’s support for DACA should not be in doubt because of that omission. “Father has clearly stated his position, that he fully supports DACA, and that’s what’s important,” Mr. Dunn said, pointing out that the Boston College president had already “expressed his support for DACA within the Boston College community and, having signed two statements before the A.J.C.U.’s statement was released, believed that was sufficient.”