Together. On Nov. 30, 2016, President Michael Engh, S.J., and the presidents of 26 Jesuit colleges in the United States raised a collective voice of support for undocumented students. They published an open letter pledging legal protection of students on campus, promotion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and support for students of all faiths.
For students at Santa Clara—and at many universities across the country—the fear in admitting undocumented status is real. It can result in the stripping of what you’ve grown to love: your friends, your home, your school, your country. In a contentious election season, that fear became constant.
Undocumented students were used as a talking point and sometimes a political target. Then-candidate Donald Trump vowed to rescind DACA—a program that currently allows undocumented young people who came to the United States as children to stay until they complete their education, provided they register with the government—effectively punishing undocumented students who came forward.
In the days following the election, uncertainty gripped members of the campus community. On Nov. 17, roughly 200 students walked out of class for a rally in front of the Mission Church. Some faculty, staff, and administrators joined in a show of support. Organizers, including Marlene Cerritos-Rivas ’18, took to microphones before marching to the Benson Center, voicing concerns regarding the proposed changes to DACA that could lead to their deportation. Cerritos-Rivas leads the Undocumented Students and Allies Association, a student group that supports and advocates for undocumented students and the broader undocumented community.
A statement of support from President Engh followed shortly. Fr. Engh and other Jesuit presidents see “the work of teaching, scholarship, and the formation of minds and spirits as a sacred trust.” They have a responsibility to uphold the dignity of every person and promote a living faith that works for justice. “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,” the letter read.
The letter closed with a statement by Pope Francis, referencing 2016 as the Year of Mercy: “Every human being is a child of God! He or she bears the image of Christ! We ourselves need to see, and then to enable others to see, that migrants and refugees do not only represent a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected, and loved.”