Updated: Watch Dreamers in Jeopardy Trinity students speak out in Chronicle of Higher Education video.
Solidarity is a concept in Catholic social teaching that expects us to support each other as members of an interdependent community. Solidarity arises from the bedrock principle of respect for human life, and recognizes that part of upholding the dignity of human life is standing with those who suffer oppression and being advocates for justice for those who need our clear and strong voices.
Many students at Trinity need and deserve such advocacy. Every student here can tell a story of challenge, real hardship, triumph after a great struggle. Our jobs as teachers, administrators and school leaders compel us to stand in solidarity with our students in the face of whatever challenges they face. The spirit of solidarity helps Trinity to create a climate that makes it possible for students to find pathways to success despite occasional obstacles.
One group of students at Trinity that needs our advocacy and solidarity right now are our Dreamers. Trinity Dreamers are extraordinary women who have persisted and triumphed many times on their journeys through education, work and community life. The name “Dreamers” is used to designate young people who came to this country as infants but are otherwise undocumented; they have lived her their entire lives and are as American as anyone, but immigration policies tag them differently. The Obama Administration created a program called DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Status — to permit Dreamers to work and attend school. However, federal financial aid policies prohibit these students from receiving federal financial aid like loans and Pell Grants. A generous group of benefactors organized a program several years ago called TheDream.US to underwrite scholarships that replace the missing federal aid for these students. Dreamer Scholarships are competitive; around the country about 1700 college students currently have scholarships from TheDream.US, and thousands more get different kinds of scholarships from their schools or some of their states.
President-elect Donald Trump has said at several times that he would end DACA along with deporting undocumented people. This would be a grave injustice to these fine students who have done nothing wrong. A generous and just nation welcomes and supports people who have fled poverty and oppression elsewhere. A narrow-minded and unjust nation threatens to expel people who have lived here since childhood simply for lack of a paper.
TheDream.US officials and I have assured our Trinity Dreamers that their scholarships are safe and that they will have every support they need to continue to thrive here. I have signed several statements with hundred of other college presidents who have pledged to do the same for their Dreamers on campuses across the country. These statements are linked below.
In this season of light, when we recall the Christmas story, we should remember that the birth of a child in a strange land, in a barn, in a time of political strife and uncertainty gave rise to one of the most enduring faith traditions in human history. That child’s message was one of peace, justice and hope. We must extend no less to all those who live among us, and we must insist that our national leaders respect human life including the lives of those who are encountering needless fear and uncertainty today.
Please join me in expressing solidarity with our Dreamers and all of our courageous, remarkable students at Trinity!
See my essay Transforming the Value Proposition for Higher Education in insidehighered.com
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