Jesuit University Presidents Join Letter in Support of Unaccompanied Children

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 12.45.57 PMBY ISN STAFFNovember 5, 2014

Earlier this month eight Jesuit university and college presidents joined a forty-seven other Catholic higher education leaders in showing their support for the protection and dignity of unaccompanied children who have come to the  US-Mexico border seeking refuge.  In a public letter the presidents pledged their support of “activities designed to raise awareness and understanding of refugee issues among our students and the broader communities” that their schools serve.   The letter was coordinated by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

The Ignatian Solidarity Network has been working with Jesuit and partner Catholic institutions across the U.S. to educate communities on the unaccompanied children issue and advocate for dignity and due process for all children coming from Central America.  Specifically ISN is calling on legislators to ensure the well being of vulnerable persons are the driving force of a U.S. response; maintain due process protections that allow children and families adequate time and opportunity to tell their stories; and address root causes of forced migration from Central America.

The full letter signed by the Catholic university presidents:

As American students return to school, thousands of unaccompanied children and their families attempt to escape the chaotic dangers of their own countries. Government and private agencies, including a large network of Catholic organizations, are working tirelessly to address the repercussions from these perilous journeys from Central America to the U.S.-Mexico border.  Amidst the search for policies and resources needed to manage the complex realities of these young refugees, we, the undersigned leaders of Catholic higher education, ask all engaged citizens to reflect deeply on Pope Francis’s recent call that, “as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected.”

In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the Committee on Migration of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), provided a starkly simple assessment of the choice facing our nation: “The real issue here is who we are as Americans. As a leader in human rights protection around the world, we often instruct other nations to receive refugees and protect human rights. Yet when child refugees appear on our own border, we struggle to respond in a humane way.”

As has been revealed by various agencies and by the children themselves, young people in Central America are often targets of extortion, kidnapping, and other criminal activity. With few alternatives to protect their children, desperate parents send them on the dangerous journey north (sometimes entrusting them to unscrupulous smugglers). Meanwhile, parents working in the United States, who frequently have been separated from their children for many years, take extraordinary steps to reunite their families in a zone of safety. Clearly, a significant number of young migrants can make valid claims for asylum. In fast-tracking immigration hearings for these child migrants, the U.S. Justice Department may be exacerbating the situation: The National Association of Immigration Judges recently criticized the procedure, noting that it leads to vulnerable children, who often lack attorney representation, being rapidly deported to face a dangerously uncertain future.

Catholic colleges and universities have both the opportunity and obligation to respond. Hospitality is a central component of our Catholic beliefs and our intellectual tradition. We reach out to the stranger in order to engage with, learn from, and collaborate with our diverse communities. Our openness to the newcomer incarnates the welcoming spirit of Christ.

We, the undersigned presidents of Catholic colleges and universities, are committed to this welcoming ethos, and to fostering a humanizing and ethical stance on America’s refugee emergency. We pledge to support activities designed to raise awareness and understanding of refugee issues among our students and the broader communities that we serve. These may include a National Day of Reflection/Action, campus prayer services, and social media campaigns. We also pledge to help advance the wide-ranging and specific recommendations of the bishops’ Committee on Migration, and to promote dialogue and actions consistent with Pope Francis’s call to welcome and protect these boys and girls.

We call on all those committed to helping Catholic higher education maintain its leadership of vital social issues such as immigration to join us. The longer we wait to act, the more young refugees will suffer.


David J. Fike, Ph.D.
Marygrove College
James E. Collins
Loras College
Michael Galligan-Stierle, Ph.D.
Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities
Rev. Kevin Wildes, S.J., Ph.D.
Loyola University New Orleans
Thomas Flynn, Ph.D.
Alvernia University
Sister Rose Marie Kujawa, CSSF, Ph.D.
Madonna University
Mary J. Meehan, Ph.D.
Alverno College
Thomas Gamble, Ph.D.
Mercyhurst University
Francesco C. Cesareo, Ph.D.
Assumption College
Thomas Botzman, Ph.D.
Misericordia University
Sister Joseph Spring, SCC
Assumption College for Sisters
Eileen Schwalbach, Ph.D.
Mount Mary University
Sister Linda Bevilacqua, OP, Ph.D.
Barry University
Tony Aretz, Ph.D.
Mount St. Joseph University
Joseph J. McGowan, Ph.D.
Bellarmine University
Judith Maxwell Greig, Ph.D.
Notre Dame de Namur University
William J. Carroll, Ph.D.
Benedictine University
Marylou Yam, Ph.D.
Notre Dame of Maryland University
Donald B. Taylor, Ph.D.
Cabrini College
Rev. Thomas B. Curran
Rockhurst University
Nancy H. Blattner, Ph.D., OPA
Caldwell University
Sharon L. Hirsh, Ph.D.
Rosemont College
Daniel Lowery, Ph.D.
Calumet College of St. Joseph
Sister Margaret Carney, OSF, S.T.D.
Saint Bonaventure University
Carol Jean Vale, SSJ, Ph.D.
Chestnut Hill College
Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D.
Saint Louis University
John Smarrelli Jr., Ph.D.
Christian Brothers University
Carol Ann Mooney, J.D.
Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame
Joanne M. Burrows, SC, Ph.D.
Clarke University
Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D.
Saint Peter’s University
Charles L. Flynn Jr., Ph.D.
College of Mount Saint Vincent
Margaret Fitzpatrick, SC, Ed.D.
Saint Thomas Aquinas College
Judith A. Huntington
The College of New Rochelle
Rev. Msgr. Franklyn M. Casale
St. Thomas University
Helen J. Streubert, Ph.D.
College of Saint Elizabeth
Rev. Michael E. Engh, S.J.
Santa Clara University
Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, CM
DePaul University
Rev. Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.
Seattle University
Rev. Timothy A. Lenchak, SVD
Divine Word College
A. Gabriel Esteban, Ph.D.
Seton Hall University
Donna M. Carroll, Ph.D.
Dominican University
Sister Peg Albert, OP, Ph.D.
Siena Heights University
Rev. Jeffrey von Arx, SJ
Fairfield University
Patricia McGuire, J.D.
Trinity Washington University
Anne M. Prisco, Ph.D.
Felician College
Pamela Trotman Reid, Ph.D.
University of Saint Joseph
J. Michael Pressimone, Ed.D.
Fontbonne University
Diane Steele, SCL, Ph.D.
University of Saint Mary
Kathleen Owens, Ph.D.
Gwynedd Mercy University
Arvid C. Johnson, Ph.D.
University of St. Francis (IL)
Brother John R. Paige, CSC, Ph.D.
Holy Cross College
Julie H. Sullivan, Ph.D.
University of St. Thomas (MN)
Sister Candace Introcaso, CDP, Ph.D.
La Roche College
Peter M. Donohue, OSA, Ph.D.
Villanova University
Brother James Gaffney, FSC
Lewis University
Rev. Michael J. Graham, S.J.
Xavier University (OH)


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