To Fr. Jenkins: Make ND a sanctuary campus
Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, February 14, 2017
I am a proud alumna of Notre Dame. I continue to contribute to the University as a member of the Sorin Society, even while paying off my student loans, because I believe in the value of a Notre Dame education. Indeed, it was my Notre Dame education, with its emphasis on social justice, which led me to where I am today and, in turn, leads to my insistence that the University become a sanctuary campus.
Upon graduating from Notre Dame, I taught in the Mississippi Delta through Teach For America. I served in a segregated community in one of the 10 poorest counties in America. Eventually, I graduated from the Goldman School of Public Policy at University of California, Berkeley, with an emphasis in education and criminal justice policy. For the past 10 years, I have dedicated myself to public service and social justice, supporting under-resourced public schools, managing over 40 schools in the Chicago Public School District (mainly in Garfield Park and Humboldt Park) and helping to implement a school transformation model in the lowest 5 percent performing schools in Illinois. Quite simply, I have based my career and life in doing what Fr. Malloy urged us to do at graduation, “Go forth, and do good.”
As an advocate of social justice, I am dismayed by the University’s recent response to Donald Trump’s ban on immigrants and refugees, and its silence on becoming a sanctuary campus. Fr. Jenkins’ statement failed to mention the protection of refugees, let alone the plight of immigrants outside the Notre Dame campus. This seems antithetical to a Catholic university’s mission — to serve both God and country — even when this current vision is at odds with the current presidential administration. The Pope has even vocally dismissed Donald Trump’s orders as anti-Christian. And, this week, we experienced the first family torn apart by Trump’s orders: a mother of two, who came to the United States as a child and lived 21 years in this country raising a family, was deported when attending a regular immigration check-in. Her kids will now grow up without their mother. I consider Father Jenkins’ response weak and morally wanting.
Thus, I am deeply troubled by the University’s refusal to become a sanctuary campus. Yes, legislation is now being considered within the Indiana legislature, limiting higher education campuses from enforcing federal orders on immigration. However, I would expect a Catholic university, particularly one heralding Father Theodore Hesburgh as an exemplar, to resist any order or law antithetical to its principles and the same principles instilled in me as a student. Moreover, as a student at Notre Dame, I was targeted under the Patriot Act due to my thesis, which researched George W. Bush’s religious rhetoric in response to Sept. 11, simply because I checked out books from the library. The University gave my library records to the Department of Homeland Security, presumably upon federal request, and as a result, I was placed on a terrorist watch list. I received obtrusive searches at every airport I visited for over five years, until Barack Obama took office. Before every flight, I received additional pat-downs and notice forms from the TSA in every bag I checked, because my bags had been searched. The worst Constitutional violation was that I never received the opportunity to appear before a judge or even understand any potential violation I committed. I had no chance to defend myself, violating my Constitutional rights and harming my sense of security in the nation I call home. In fact, I feel that the reason for these unwarranted searches was my dedication to my nation’s most essential traditions — the ability to disagree peaceably with those in power and protest accordingly (e.g. checking out books for research). And, now under a more aggressive administration, I would hope that the University would do more to protect its students, regardless of federal orders. The University failed to protect me as a 21-year-old student, when the stakes were far less, and I demand that the University would protect the most vulnerable in our community — immigrants, undocumented immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers — in accordance with the gospel of Matthew.
I am asking the University to resist presidential or federal demands that contradict our university’s mission. The protection of our students is worth defending, despite the potential cost, and particularly when these principles are taught in classrooms across our campus and defended by the leader of our faith. I am asking for bravery and persistence. And, I am asking for the same that my university asked of me, “Go forth, and do good.”
So, Fr. Jenkins, do good. Make Notre Dame a sanctuary campus. Resist immoral orders, and defend our students, particularly since other universities have already done so. It’s time to start leading in a morally problematic time.
Class of 2004
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.