written by: Pedro Guerrero, Loyola University Chicago ’14
As a student leader of Loyola University Chicago, I encounter the text of our mission statement on a regular basis. The phrase, “working to expand knowledge in the service of humanity through learning, justice, and faith,” has always stuck out to me the most. Despite being an immigrant to this country, the adversities that affected my undocumented brothers and sisters were never objectified until I stepped foot on campus. Since then, my world has taken a turn for the better, igniting the fires of empathy as I learned of the adversities that affect the undocumented, the people who were simply brought to the United States under the pretense of pursuing a better life, and failed to receive formal authorization.
As I researched the topic, and found information pertaining to creating opportunities for the undocumented, I learned of many things, mainly of how Loyola acted as a pioneer, along with other Jesuit Universities, in allowing the undocumented population to achieve a university degree. The university website serves a massive resource in itself, as it provides a basic guide to the admissions process, a list of committed on-campus allies to Undocumented students, and a wealth of links to direct prospective students to find different forms of financial aid since they are not eligible for federal aid. Apart from all of this, Loyola has vowed to champion our nation’s most vulnerable students by establishing an Undocumented Student Ally program, similar to the popular LGBTQIA ally programs seen throughout other universities. Many staff and faculty members proudly display a “Share the DREAM: Safe Zone” card on their office doors to assure undocumented students that their journey is not meant to solitary one.
Undergraduate students have also taken it upon themselves to foster an environment of inclusion and celebration around these spectacular members of our society. Through their own passion and volition for comprehensive immigration reform, three student groups have traveled to Washington D.C. in the past 3 years to speak directly to our nation’s lawmakers and urge them to draft solutions to this ongoing issue in conjunction with Ignatian Solidarity Network programs. Through their work, combined with the dedication of thousands of other advocates, the Senate passed S. 744, The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. The House of Representatives has yet to introduce a bill.
The Unified Student Government Association (USGA) has also taken steps to continue to develop a more inclusive community, especially for undocumented students. In the Spring of 2013, the student government team passed “The Undocumented Student Act,” which declared their support for undocumented students, while also calling for administration to increase their participation in the conversation around assisting my undocumented brothers and sisters. More specifically, the USGA requested that a scholarship fund be created exclusively for undocumented students, reminiscent of the Hurtado Scholars Program established by Santa Clara University. The team of student leaders also called on the administration to create a formal admissions process for the undocumented, complete with legal counseling, psychological support, and career advising. The bill passed with an overwhelming majority of approving votes.
While there is a tremendous amount of work to be done, I am honored to say that I attend a university as accommodating as Loyola University Chicago. Their mission to work to expand knowledge in the service of humanity through learning, justice, and faith continues to run rampant through the campus, and will only continue to do so in the coming year.
Guerrero will serve as the Unified Student Government Association president during the 2013-2014 academic year.