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College students gather to discuss immigration reform

An education-focused immigration summit will be held Feb. 22 at Quinlan Life Science Building.
An education-focused immigration summit will be held Feb. 22 at Quinlan Life Science Building.
An education-focused immigration summit will be held Feb. 22 at Quinlan Life Science Building.

Immigration reform will soon extend from the congressional agenda to student discussion as Loyola hosts the first education-focused Student Summit at a university on Immigration Reform on Feb. 22.

According to Susan Haarman, Campus Ministry’s faith and justice campus minister, the summit is open to other surrounding Catholic universities and is intended to spark “student energy toward immigration reform.”

The event’s main sponsors and creators are Faith in Public Life — a national support charity for advocating faith in the public sector — and the national social justice organization, Ignatian Solidarity Network.

Haarman said Faith in Public Life approached her and other campus leaders from Marquette University, DePaul University and the University of Notre Dame with the idea to host the summit. Loyola was ultimately chosen based on Chicago’s central location. Haarman said that while she and Campus Ministry are helping to organize and host the event, much of the credit goes to two student advocates: Flavio Bravo, 19, a sophomore philosophy and political science double major, and Pedro Guerrero, 22, a senior political science and international studies double major and also the president of the Unified Student Government Association (USGA).

“Flavio and I are very passionate about [immigration reform], specifically how it affects students on campuses,” Guerrero said. “The summit will be a mix of policy and steps students can take to take action at their own universities.”

Bravo said the immigration summit will be held at the Quinlan Life Science Building with keynote speakers and breakout sessions during which students will learn more about the politics behind immigration reform and then brainstorm ways to become student advocates at their universities.

Sister Ellen Mary Lacy — a well-known immigration attorney and political advocate at St. John the Baptist Parish in Brooklyn, N.Y. — and an undocumented student whose name and university are left anonymous, will be two of the speakers. Guerrero said he has also reached out to Rep. Luis Gutiérrez and Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, both of whom are key supporters for immigration reform.

According to the Pew Research Center  — a nonpartisan research group — there are anywhere from 7,000 to 13,000 undocumented students currently enrolled in college. The number of undocumented students at Loyola is not reported.

Recently, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops declared its support for immigration reform, sparking Catholic universities across the nation to make increased efforts toward policy changes on their campuses. In August 2013, Notre Dame made significant headway when the university changed its admissions policy to accept applications from undocumented students.

In June 2013, Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood, Ill., became the first medical school in the country to accept undocumented students as doctors-in-training. In addition, through his role as president of USGA, Guerrero is working to further push Loyola down the immigration reform track by urging university administrators to create more resources for undocumented students.

“These are our peers who don’t feel safe integrating into Loyola’s college experience,” Guerrero said. “There needs to be more student mobilization around this issue.”

Both Guerrero and Bravo said the immigration summit will be a key force to this mobilization. In addition, Bravo said the summit will not only allow Loyola students to network with students from other universities, but will also encourage collaboration for each university’s own campus action plan.

“I feel that as a Catholic Jesuit university, we have a call to respond,” Bravo said. “I think that once students can learn more about [immigration reform], they will care. We should create a model that other Jesuit universities can follow.”

Registration for the event ends Feb. 18, and Bravo said as of Thursday, Feb. 6., 39 students had registered. Of that total, 16 are from Loyola and 23 are from DePaul, Marquette and Notre Dame. Bravo and Guerrero hope to have a minimum of 120 students attend the summit.

“It is a relevant issue on our campus. In a way, it can also be seen as a very invisible conflict at our school,” Guerrero said.

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