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BY SOPHIA FERRIES-ROWE | November 21, 2017

On the morning of September 3, I received a text from a friend that read “It’s official” with an attachment to The Hill’s early reporting on President Trump’s DACA decision.

My heart dropped. I felt heartbroken, angry; defeated but determined. On one hand, I wanted to throw up my hands in defeat, but on the other, I knew I had to do something to show that this would not stand.

On August 30, my friends – Casey Ernest, Elaine Esposito, and Mary Claire Molloy – had invited me to help organize a rally for immigrant rights at Brebeuf in response to President Trump’s order. Casey and Mary Claire heard about the issue in their religion class in the morning and were immediately inspired to do something about it.

Rally signs in front of the school’s statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Photo: Alex Shukri, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School

Initial planning meetings started with Brebeuf’s Director of Community Service, Nick Klingler, on August 31, five days before Trump’s decision deadline. It was clear that he would most likely eliminate DACA, but we didn’t want to plan specifics because we were hopeful that he’d surprise us.

On September 5, President Trump officially declared that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), created as a result of President Obama’s presidential order, would be ended after a six-month delay. This means that 800,000 individuals brought to America by their parents could be deported despite having been raised in the U.S.

The first step of planning the rally was finding a date. We needed a time that was convenient for the largest number of people, close enough to September 5 that the issue would not have been replaced with something else beforehand. The first date that fit all the criteria was Monday, September 11. (Yes. We know. More on that later.)

Ana Mendoza spoke about the issue from a DREAMer’s perspective, emphasizing the importance of the issue. Photo: Alex Shukri, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School

We started planning the rally for a 15-minute period the following Monday. We reached out to teachers, club leaders, and class presidents and invited them to attend Brebeuf’s Rally for Immigrant Rights.

After finding a date, we thought more about the takeaway from the rally. Our main goal was that people leave with the intention of contacting their representatives as soon as possible. To achieve that, however, we needed more people to be educated on the issue first.

Social media was an important aspect of the rally. Photo: Alex Shukri, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School

Mr. Klingler, director for community service at Brebeuf, contacted the executive director of the Indianapolis Immigrant Welcome Center, Terri Morris Downs, to speak at the rally about DACA itself, what it meant for Indianapolis, why its reversal was so harmful, and finally why student advocacy was so important. By inviting leaders on this issue from our community, we were able to spread the message to a larger audience than just the students at Brebeuf.

On Monday at 12:25, I left my physics class, following a crowd of people to the St. Ignatius statue in front of Brebeuf. By the time Ms. Downs started speaking, there were about 150 people in front of St. Ignatius. The group of us that planned the rally made eye contact with each other from across the crowd and smiled with that look of “Wow, we really pulled it off.”

Students march on school grounds after the rally. Photo: Alex Shukri, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School

Downs gave a brief overview of the issue, then discussed how it is the responsibility of those with privilege to stand up for those being discriminated against. On that note, we started marching. Brebeuf senior Ana Mendoza led the group in chants as we circled the lawn. We chanted “No hate, no fear, DREAMers are welcome here!” as people took videos and pictures with our “BJPS for DREAMers” Snapchat filter. It was a very high-energy, inspirational, unbelievable 15 minutes.

Students pose with a sign for social media during the rally. Photo: Alex Shukri, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School

After the rally, everyone headed inside. It was then that we really saw the impact of the rally. Even the moderator of the Young Republicans club remarked that he was impressed. Administrators discussed how proud they were.

However, those were not the only people giving us feedback. Some students were upset that the rally was hosted on 9/11. They went to the administration declaring that we’d disrespected the President, the military, the victims of 9/11, the families in mourning, and the flag. They were upset that we did not pause for a day to remember the lives lost.

We wanted the takeaway from the rally to be that students contact Congress to share the news of our rally; we needed to be on as much social media as possible. For me, though, this became a surprisingly difficult task because of the bad feedback. Even though I knew there were more positive comments than negative, it was difficult to stop playing the negative feedback over and over again in my head.

I started telling myself that any post I made wouldn’t make much of a difference so it wouldn’t be worth it. For two days afterward I was radio silent on my social media out of shame and fear.

A sketch created by the author for social media, encouraging members of the school community to take action as advocates for Dreamers.

After two days, I took a deep breath, drafted my Instagram post, and sent it out to the world because I knew the rally wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about making everyone happy. It wasn’t about 9/11, a day that should never be turned into a time of paralysis and silence. It was about protecting the 800,000 young people at risk of being deported, and even if my post was not going to make or break Congress’s decision, it was my responsibility to do what I could.

The feedback I received was all positive. People from my rowing team asked about what the rally was, why that issue was important, and what they could do. We succeeded. We created dialogue and promoted understanding specifically so that we could communicate to Congress our beliefs about what they should do. News of our rally was posted on Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and even Facebook (thanks, adults!). Support came from all sides and most importantly there were lots of people contacting their representatives.

For the group that helped organize the rally with the help of Mr. Klingler, this experience showed just how much high school students can do. Activism is not about age or experience but about dedication and a willingness to do what is right. Brebeuf demonstrated that not only are we willing to speak up and use our privilege for the betterment of society, but that we are able to. It ignited a new passion in Brebeuf’s social justice club and provided an example of what our work could look like in action.

BY ISN STAFFOctober 3, 2017

In response to the Tuesday, September 5 announcement that the Trump administration would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Jesuit colleges and universities across the U.S. will participate in a Dream Action Week from October 9-13, 2017.

Focus will center around the Dream Act, a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate. The bill outlines a three-step pathway to citizenship “for people who are either undocumented, have DACA or temporary protected status (TPS), and who graduate from U.S. high schools and attend college, enter the workforce, or enlist in a military program.” This is a critical legislative opportunity to protect people who strengthen U.S. communities.

The action week, which was initiated at Loyola Marymount University, will invite administrative and student leaders at all Jesuit campuses to urge their campus communities to advocate for the Dream Act by calling their Senators, utilizing an action alert created in partnership with the Ignatian Solidarity Network. Each campus will plan additional educational, awareness, and advocacy events.

A card designed to promote Dream Act advocacy efforts on Jesuit campuses during Dream Action Week.

Last week, the student body presidents at all twenty-eight Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States released a letter in support of undocumented students and their allies, uniting as leaders on their campuses in response to the recent DACA decision and in anticipation of Dream Action Week.

Public Letter from Jesuit Student Government Association Presidents
September 28, 2017

In response to the recent announcement of the removal of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), the student body Presidents of the twenty-eight Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States publicly stand in solidarity with our undocumented students and their allies. We, as a collective unit, acknowledge that this is a human issue that will impact over 800,000 members of our nation. Immigrants have played a crucial part in the foundation of this nation and have dreams and aspirations like any other person; these dreams should be preserved and kept sacred just as any other.

As colleges and universities rooted in the Jesuit traditions, our students are called to engage in the discourse and advocate for a more just and equitable world. In the face of injustice, we are challenged to practice a high level of discernment and allow our knowledge and experiences to inform our actions of being with and for others. It is important to emphasize that our unifying mission underlines the commitment to all people, regardless of national origin and documentation status. Any action and policy that seeks to divide and tear us apart should never be accepted and thereby calls for our total resistance to such.

With that being said, the student body Presidents of Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States will:

  • Work on behalf of our constituents to start the chain of calling our representatives.
  • Orchestrate educational efforts for students to learn more about the topics of immigration and DACA and how it relates to our Jesuit mission.
  • Strive to engage our students in dialogue and/or demonstrations that denounce the removal of this program.
  • Promote action off-campus to stand with the rest of the country in creating a greater understanding of the need for DACA and garnering more support of Congressional legislation.
  • Remind students of the appropriate resources on our respective campuses that support the spiritual, psychological, and emotional well-being of our students in order to uphold the value of cura personalis (care for the whole person).

With this statement, we encourage all students to treat this recent announcement of the removal of the DACA program as a call to action to stand with and contest this decision alongside those at the margins. We would like to highlight the importance of becoming educated on the matters at hand, participating in public protest, and communicating with your respective legislators to enact change. The understanding of our privilege must be utilized to realize our roles as higher education institutions in catalyzing social change in our contemporary world. We urge our peers across the country to stand together and for our undocumented students.

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network Voices for Justice blog series.

A resource created by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network to help Dreamers understand scenarios based on their DACA status.

This bilingual (English/Spanish) screening tool developed by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network can help legal workers assess whether a DACA recipient is eligible to request renewal before October 5, 2017.

BY CHRISTOPHER KERR | April 2, 2017
Readings

In my work at the Ignatian Solidarity Network, I have the opportunity to join passionate colleagues from across the country for regular “coalition calls” to discuss the ways that the faith-based community can advocate for humane migration and refugee policies.

As executive orders were announced by the new administration this winter, the mood during these calls was one of disheartenment and desolation, particularly in light of our new president’s history of taking direct aim at existing regulations designed to protect the dignity of immigrants and refugees who are most vulnerable.

Cleveland Immigration Walk for Justice-2016

Call participants began to share stories of immigrants and refugees already being directly impacted by the changing policies: immigrant families choosing not to attend church services or send their children to school out of fear of deportation; refugees stopped at international airports hours before flights to the U.S. and turned away; and undocumented young people detained amid questionable circumstances despite having Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) status.

While each situation had its unique characteristics, they all shared a common theme — a sense of great loss, as if hope had died for these immigrant and refugee sisters and brothers.

In the weeks that have followed, the sense of desolation is still a reality — it cannot be avoided. However, among the coalition members there is also a sense of hope.

It is grounded in a belief that in the midst of challenging realities that face immigrant and refugee communities, there are small steps that we can take as advocates, as companions — that we can be givers of life.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives Lazarus “life” when he asks him to come out from the darkness of the tomb.  Through this miracle we experience the hope that Jesus can provide for our world, even amid great desolation. Our coalition partners offer that same hope, showing that there are small glimmers of “life” and hope we can provide to brothers and sisters who migrate.

Reflection questions:

  • What are the experiences of migrants and refugees in your community?
  • How can you be a giver of “life” and “hope” to them?

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network Rise Up: A Lenten Call to Solidarity series.