Fordham President Pledges Support for Undocumented Students

University+President+Rev.+Joseph+M.+McShane+addressed+the+question+of+%22Who+is+the+Fordham+community%3F%22+in+an+email+on+Oct.+15.

University President Rev. Joseph M. McShane addressed the question of “Who is the Fordham community?” in an email on Oct. 15.

By ELIZABETH LANDRY

In a move that seeks to defend and adhere to President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, President of Fordham University Joseph M. McShane, S.J. has signed two new statements of solidarity with undocumented students.

These statements were made public on Nov. 30, and include more than 90 signatures of the college presidents of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities as well as over 300 more public and private institutions across the United States.

McShane announced the statements to the Fordham community via email, with a personal letter preceding its text and links to a similar 2013 Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) statement and the Pomona Statement. The latter affirms the commitment of the signatory institutions to provide DACA-qualified students with “campus counseling and ministry support, through legal resources from those campuses with law schools and legal clinics, and through whatever other services we may have at our disposal.”

In the email, McShane says that he has signed three documents, one in 2013 and two in Nov. 2016, to “make it clear that Fordham sees and embraces undocumented students as valued and loved members of our community, that Fordham stands with them, and that we will do all we can to be effective advocates for them.”

McShane cites the example of University Founder Archbishop John Hughes, who he says was “an immigrant and the victim of prejudice and discrimination both in Ireland and in the United States.” He continues saying that the school was founded to “make it possible for the immigrants whom he served to receive an education that would both confound their enemies and enable them to take their rightful place in American society.” McShane also said that his own immigrant ancestry brings the position of children of immigrants close to his own heart.

Fordham’s Jesuit values are invoked both in the letter and the signed statement from the AJCU. “We see our work of teaching, scholarship and the formation of young minds and spirits as a sacred trust,” the AJCU Statement says. “That trust prompts us to labor for solidarity among all people, and especially with and for the poor and marginalized of our society. That trust calls us to embrace the entire human family, regardless of their immigration status – or religious allegiance.”

The AJCU presidents pledge to continue working “to protect to the fullest extent of the law undocumented students on our campuses; to promote retention of the [DACA] Program; to support and stand with our students, faculty and staff regardless of their faith traditions; to preserve the religious freedoms on which our nation was founded.” It also says that they hope the statements inspire efforts at welcome, dialogue, conversation and reconciliation in the University and national communities.

The Pomona Statement, named for the host college and made public on Nov. 30, is signed by over 400 public and private colleges and universities which offer to meet with U.S. leaders in support of DACA. The list remains open for additional colleges and universities to sign.

This statement praises the “critical benefits of this program for our students, and [its] highly positive impacts on our institutions and communities,” saying that DACA beneficiaries have shown themselves to be “exemplary student scholars and student leaders” who actively contribute to local communities and economies. It calls for the program to be upheld, continued and expanded as a “moral imperative and a national necessity.”

DACA was first implemented in June 2012 in order to allow a two-year period of no action toward qualifying undocumented individuals who entered the U.S. before their sixteenth birthday and were still under the age of 31 as of June 2007. To qualify, these individuals must be currently in school, a high school graduate or be honorably discharged from the military, and must not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or identified as a threat to national security.

President-elect Donald Trump has denounced programs which provide opportunities to undocumented immigrants since August 2015 and said that he would rescind President Obama’s Immigration Accountability Executive Actions, which include expanding DACA and creating the Deferred Action for Parents of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. His stance on immigration is a top issue to address once he takes office.

Commonly referred to as DREAMers for the failed DREAM Act, which proposed a process for permanent residency, the 740,000 DACA-registered young people brought to the US illegally by their parents do not have legal standing. Critics in the media and the Democratic Party have expressed concern that these individuals’ information could be used to remove them under a Trump administration, whose picks include tough opponents to illegal immigration such as Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach for the transition team and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for attorney general.

Both McShane’s letter and the AJCU statement reference Pope Francis for inspiration, who said last year to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, “Do not be discouraged by whatever hardships you face. I ask you not to forget that, like those who came here before you, you bring many gifts to this nation.”