BY ISN STAFF | October 25, 2017
WASHINGTON, DC – Father Michael Sheeran, S.J., 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 today 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 twenty-eight Jesuit colleges and universities in the U.S.
Noting that ten percent of the members of Congress was educated at Jesuit colleges and universities, and even more at Jesuit high schools, Father Sheeran noted 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.
Fr. Sheeran’s full comments:
Thank you Senator. I am the president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities which is based here in Washington. There twenty-eight America Jesuit colleges and universities like Georgetown here, small schools like Spring Hill in Mobile, Alabama and larger ones like Loyola in Chicago, and on the west coast Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount and the University of San Francisco and Seattle University.
We know the dreamers because they bless all of us our campuses. You might miss them because they look and speak like any other American youngster. They are excellent and well-prepared students who held their mother’s hand or clung to their father’s next as they came across that border. They have done nothing wrong. Instead they serve others in high school ROTC, volunteer as tutors to grade school kids, in churches, in nursing homes. They have so much to give our country from their personal initiative to their economic impact.
Ten percent of the members of the Senate and House are graduates of our 28 Jesuit universities. Scores more are graduates of our high schools. To those alums in particular, I speak today through those of you who are filming. To those alums I say, we taught you about responsible citizenship. Republican or Democrat, that sense of civic responsibility is an underlying part of why you are in Congress today. You learned in school about the obligation to respect and protect the natural rights of other human beings, especially when they stand in need before you and you have the power to help. You now have the power in a way we ordinary citizens do not, the power to do justice for these students. Live up to what you learned in our Jesuit schools and persuade your peers to do the same. Republican, Democrat, on this issue be a man or woman for others. Free these DACA students to be the Americans they are already are in their hearts.
Press Conference Video: