Supporting Undocumented Students
USF president joins hundreds of higher ed leaders opposing deportation and vilification in heated political environment
USF President Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J. appeared on CNN, speaking in support of undocumented students facing intimidation and bullying in the wake of anti-immigration rhetoric and threats to deport them by President-elect Donald Trump and some of his supporters.
"We will use every legal means to protect these, our students," Fr. Fitzgerald told CNN anchor Carol Costello.
Fr. Fitzgerald pledged that USF will provide undocumented students with a quality education, give them every chance to participate in life on campus, offer them the best legal advice for their situation, and help them seek different immigration statuses if relevant.
He also discussed the issue on Bay Area Fox affiliate KTVU-TV news, and USF's stand was reported in the San Francisco Business Journal and the online Catholic magazine Crux.
Presidents oppose deportation
Fr. Fitzgerald is among more than 450 (and growing) university and college presidents from across the country, including 80 from Catholic institutions, that oppose the deportation of so-called DREAMers — undocumented students who were brought to the U.S. by their parents as children and have grown up here. Presidents and university leaders from all 28 Jesuit universities and colleges in the U.S. released a joint statement, expanding the list of those they're intent on protecting to include minorities and non-Christians, who have also been threatened in the weeks following the presidential election.
"Experience has shown us that our communities are immeasurably enriched by the presence, intelligence, and committed contributions of undocumented students, as well as of faculty and staff of every color and from every faith tradition," says the statement released by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU).
In the statement, AJCU presidents and leaders pledged to:
- Protect to the fullest extent of the law undocumented students on their campuses;
- Promote retention of the DREAMers protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA);
- Support and stand with students, faculty, and staff regardless of their faith traditions;
- And preserve the religious freedoms on which the nation was founded.
“Shoot ourselves in the foot”
Nearly 700,000 students are protected by DACA, which began in 2012. It allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors to receive renewable two-year deferments from deportation, while they complete their education and pursue legalization.
As a country that was founded by and built by immigrants, supporting DACA is not only the moral thing to do but the practical thing to do, said Fr. Fitzgerald. "The United States does not produce enough college graduates to fill the needs of our economy. To deport 700,000 college students would be shooting ourselves in the foot," he said.