Loyola Marymount University to open Dream Center for undocumented students
BY ISN STAFF | May 2, 2023
Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in Los Angeles announced the anticipated opening of a Dream Center in Fall 2023, serving as a designated staff and space, to support undocumented students and families, as well as students who hold Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, status, often referred to as DACAmented. This marks the culmination of decades of grassroots organizing by LMU students, faculty, and staff.
The immigrant rights club RESILIENCE was integral in paving the way for the Dream Center. Camila De Pierola, former president and vice president of RESILIENCE, reflected on their organizing efforts: “We made our presence as undocumented, DACA-mented, and allied students known with workshops, speakers, demonstrations, and support groups. We created an orientation video with Dr. Cecilia González-Andrieu during 2020, highlighting every resource and outlet of support for incoming students. It was housed in a virtual ‘Dream Center,’ and now that there will be a physical space, it truly brings this collective effort full circle.”
Cecilia González-Andrieu, Ph.D., LMU professor of theology and ISN board member, also celebrated the increased capacity to serve undocumented students and recognized ISN’s role as an ally and partner over the years: “We never felt alone in our efforts to open a Dream Center because of our partnership with ISN. As a national organization sharing our vision, ISN has provided our undocumented students with opportunities and resources to grow as leaders, meet other undocumented students, and connect with others who want to support them.”
She shared further: “ISN’s networking and programming, especially the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, unleashed and nurtured our collective imagination. Our student leaders, especially Camila De Pierola, imagined a national Undocu Network for undocumented students convened and supported by ISN. This initiative blossomed into two national Undocu Network Summits and is growing to involve students and alumni of Catholic universities across the country.”
Expanding on the role of the Undocu Network, ISN’s migration coordinator, Jorge Palacios Jr., commented, “Through monthly zoom meetings and an annual in-person gathering, ISN’s Undocu Network is constructing a coalition for action built by and for the people directly impacted by migration issues. LMU’s new Dream Center serves as a sign of hope and inspiration for everyone in the Undocu Network. We’re a community that transcends the borders of institutions, and seeing LMU’s commitment to undocumented students take shape gives us hope for the progress we can see throughout the Jesuit network.”
As LMU takes steps to welcome youth of all immigration statuses, organizers look forward to the Dream Center’s future impact. Mariel Fuentes, the current president of RESILIENCE, emphasized the Center’s potential to support students’ professional success: “Undocumented students face unique barriers in accessing the same opportunities as their peers after earning their degrees. By fostering partnerships with other campus organizations, the Dream Center can create a comprehensive network of resources that cater to the diverse needs of undocumented students. The Dream Center should focus on providing access to alternative career avenues, such as fellowships, independent contracting, and other resources like mentorship and financial literacy courses to expand access to the same opportunities as their peers.”
Organizers noted that the Dream Center will have an impact far beyond the LMU campus. Camila De Pierola emphasized: “It demonstrates to other universities, students, and communities that LMU is beyond raising awareness. It is taking intentional action to permanently support immigrant students and is proud to do so publicly.”
Mariel Fuentes affirmed: “In the years to come, the Dream Center will transform the lives of countless students, instilling confidence and hope in their pursuit of meaningful careers. The Dream Center will not only support students in achieving their professional goals but also contribute to a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable society.”
Dream Center is a meaningful initiative. Borders and boundaries are opportunities for contact and bridge-building. Long live humanity.