Disclaimer: The author of this story briefly participated in Loyola’s Dream Act campaign.
Loyola recently launched a campaign to support “Dreamers” — people brought to the United States illegally as children.
On Thursday, students and faculty called their members of Congress either at campaign sites or during the day to advocate for the DREAM Act.
The phone campaign spanned three of Loyola’s campuses with locations at Lake Shore, Water Tower and the Health Sciences campus located in Maywood. Volunteers distributed scripts to students and faculty and helped participants identify the contact information of their congressional members.
Phillip Hale, Loyola’s vice president of Government Affairs, headed the campaign.
The campaign extended beyond Loyola to encompass nearly 20 universities within the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), Hale said. Loyola is one of the 28 Jesuit universities involved in the AJCU.
The DREAM Act, originally introduced in 2001 by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill), is aimed at determining a pathway to citizenship for undocumented individuals who came to the United States as minors.
The campaign was launched in anticipation of the upcoming March 5 expiration of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA was designed to give Dreamers protection from deportation and was rescinded by the Trump administration Sept. 5.
“We are doing [the campaign] now because it’s very timely … we wanted to create a sense of urgency,” Hale said.
Approximately 140 students at Loyola are undocumented, and about half are under DACA, according to Joe Saucedo, assistant director of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. A portion of roughly 241,000 students eligible for DACA status enrolled in a university in 2014, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine is home to nearly half of the nation’s undocumented medical students.
Durbin has actively been involving members of Loyola’s undocumented community in recent weeks. Stritch student Alejandra Duran Arreola joined the senator in Washington, D.C. to advocate for Dreamers Jan.16. Cesar Montelongo, also a student at Stritch, accompanied Durbin to the State of the Union last week to advocate for an immigration solution that would protect him and his peers.
This isn’t the first time AJCU schools have come together in support for undocumented students. In November, Loyola President Jo Ann Rooney signed an AJCU-released statement in support of advocating for undocumented students.
Participating AJCU institutions in last week’s phone campaign include Georgetown University, Boston College, Santa Clara University and Marquette University.
Hale credited the work of the Student Government of Loyola Chicago (SGLC) in its collaboration with the student governments of other AJCU institutions ahead of the campaign.
Anusha Mannam, vice president of SGLC, said she hopes the campaign is the beginning of a continued partnership with other university student governments. Mannam said she would like the phone campaign to show Loyola’s care for its undocumented students regardless of their U.S. citizenship status.
“I have friends and peers who are [undocumented] and it is so important they are given the same opportunities as myself,” Mannam said. “It is so important to advocate for others, especially when it comes to such young, educated, bright future leaders and future members of our society.”
Solomon Collins, a senior journalism, economics and international studies major, was one student who participated in the campaign.
“Historically, I haven’t reached out to Congress in this manner, but given the upcoming deadline and given that now I have more friends that are deeply impacted by the current changes, now is the appropriate time in my opinion,” Collins said.
Collins said his time working in Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (SDMA) as a multimedia intern facilitated his interaction with students of many different backgrounds. He said he’s encouraged by this campaign and by Loyola’s continued support for Dreamers, while acknowledging Loyola still has room to improve.
“Whether it be additional scholarships for undocumented students or students from different nationalities and different backgrounds, I’d like to see more awareness raised about the topic in general in terms of the difficulties that these students have to face,” Collins said.
Since 2014, Loyola has provided the Magis Scholarship for undocumented undergraduate students who don’t qualify for Federal Financial Aid. Since 2015, Loyola undergraduate students pay a $2.50 fee in their tuition to fund the Magis Scholarship.
Katherine Kaufka Walts, director of Loyola’s Center for the Human Rights of Children, an institution which seeks to further the rights of children through student and faculty engagement as well as research and other programs, volunteered at the Water Tower Campus campaign site.
Kaufka Walts is also a member of Loyola’s Dreamer Committee, a university-wide committee that guides the university in addressing undocumented students’ needs. The committee is comprised of students and faculty from a number of Loyola’s schools.
Kaufka Walts said she sees the issue of a clean DREAM Act — meaning an act that wouldn’t allow for funding for a border wall, interior enforcement or detention centers — as one of both children’s rights and human rights, paralleling the university’s political advocacy.
“The human rights framework is really in line with the social justice and Catholic framework in terms of dignity for all, so there is a lot of synergy there,” Kaufka Walts said.
Kaufka Walts also said Loyola’s involvement with political advocacy for Dreamers is positive.
“I think this particular call to action, as well as the last [campaign in October], are pretty bold and public statements in terms of where Loyola, as well as the other AJCU institutions, are and I think that’s a positive thing,” Kaufka Walts said.
Following the campaign, Hale said he hopes students can learn the importance of advocacy for themselves and their peers.
“This is just as much a part of our system and process of democracy as the voting booths, and we hope that people learn to appreciate it and learn to exercise their voice in a positive and very constructive way,” Hale said.