November 3, 2017 — Father Michael Sheeran, SJ, president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, made a direct plea to Jesuit-educated members of Congress to respond to the situation of undocumented young people during a press conference on Capitol Hill in support of the Dream Act of 2017.
The Dream Act would provide a pathway to citizenship for over 800,000 undocumented college students and recent graduates currently part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, including many young people at the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the U.S.
Noting that 10 percent of the members of Congress were educated at Jesuit colleges and universities, and even more at Jesuit high schools, Fr. Sheeran said that “responsible citizenship” and “obligation to respect and protect the natural rights of other human beings” were core elements of their Jesuit educational experience. Highlighting an iconic phrase in Jesuit educational circles, he challenged legislators, saying, “Republican, Democrat, on this issue be a man or woman for others.”
The press conference was organized by Senator Dick Durbin, a graduate of Georgetown University and co-author of the bipartisan Dream Act legislation. Addressing media, higher education leaders, and Congressional colleagues, Senator Durbin noted the leadership of the Jesuits in supporting undocumented students and recognized Loyola University Chicago for being the first university in the U.S. to publicly welcome undocumented medical students.
In September, over 1,200 educators at Jesuit universities and high schools called on the Trump Administration to refrain from repealing the DACA program. Despite their efforts, an announcement of the repeal was made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on September 5, and throughout the fall President Trump has encouraged Congress to come up with a legislative response to provide relief to undocumented young people, setting a deadline of March 5, when the DACA program will officially begin to be terminated over a two-year period.
On November 6, over 1,400 delegates from Jesuit and other Catholic high schools, colleges, and churches will visit Capitol Hill to ask legislators to pass the Dream Act without amendments or delay — a call consistent with the lobbying efforts of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and a wide range of faith-based organizations and faith leaders.
In addition to Fr. Sheeran, speakers included Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Kamala Harris (D-CA); House Democratic Caucus Chair, Representative Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA) and Adriano Espaillat (D-NY); University of California, Davis Chancellor Gary S. May; State University of New York System Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson; University at Albany-SUNY President Havidán Rodríguez; University at Buffalo President Satish Tripathi; Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.; and two Dreamers, Nejvi Bejko and Leezia Dhalla.