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Stand for the dream

Mia Lillis | Thursday, October 3, 2013

This summer, Pope Francis took his first papal trip beyond the Vatican to Lampedusa, a small Italian island known as a destination point for thousands of immigrants from Africa. Unfortunately, the immigrant voyage to Lampedusa is no easy feat, and thousands have drowned in their attempts to find a better life. The Pope mourned the lost lives and the suffering that immigrants of Lampedusa have experienced, and in a homily given to a crowd of over 10,000 people, he declared, “the Church is with you in the search for a more dignified life for you and your family.”
The speech caused a stir in Europe, where the political arena has long been dominated by anti-immigrant sentiments. Anti-immigrant political parties have reached record levels of popularity in Greece, France, Scandinavia, and the Netherlands, among other European countries. But the significance of the Pope’s politically charged words extends beyond European borders. Americans are no strangers to the tension surrounding the topic of immigration. Data from the Pew Research Center indicates that domestic opinion on whether undocumented immigrants ought to have access to public services or education is in constant fluctuation. Such fluctuation is unsurprising given the fluctuation of the immigrant population, which is once again on the rise. As of last year, Pew Research estimates that the United States was home to 11.7 million undocumented immigrants.
Dara Márquez, a current student of St. Mary’s College, is one of these 11.7 million. Dara’s family immigrated when she was only three years old. According to Dara, her family’s decision to immigrate was due to the fact that her father constantly struggled to provide for her family. According to Dara, that struggle “meant not enough money to buy milk or food on a daily basis.” Her parents aspired to provide a more secure life for their family than this mere day-to-day survival, and such security was difficult to find in Mexico. For that reason, Dara’s family relocated to the United States in search of better work opportunities. While Dara has sometimes faced complications due to her undocumented status, such as not qualifying for financial aid, she and her family have nevertheless fared significantly better in the United States, and day-to-day survival is a thing of the past for them.
Dara’s story is not unique among undocumented immigrants currently residing in our country. Most immigrants come to the United States after enduring extreme poverty and starvation in the hopes of finding a “more dignified life” for themselves and for their family. Pope Francis is not alone among Church leaders supporting this move. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, or USCCB, has long been a public supporter of comprehensive reform of immigration policy and outspoken advocate for undocumented citizens in our borders. Pope Francis, the USCCB, and other moral leaders have sent the citizens of the world consistent clear messages regarding immigration, and they have issued a broad unequivocal call for compassion and acceptance of our undocumented brothers and sisters.
This summer, our University released an announcement indicating that she will heed this call. As of this year, Notre Dame has committed to welcoming and admitting undocumented students to the ranks of the Fighting Irish. Today at 4:00 p.m., in celebration of this decision, the University is hosting NDream on the steps of Main Building, and I strongly encourage all readers to attend this celebration. The time has come to heed the call of Pope Francis. It is time for us to put aside political jargon, to approach immigrants in our country with compassion, and to welcome undocumented Domers with open arms. I can think of no family more up to the task than our own.

Mia Lillis is a senior living in Cavanaugh Hall. She can be reached at mlillis@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.