The American dreamers
Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, March 22, 2017
“Living as an undocumented student is incredibly difficult because you’re never 100 percent secure or confident … because you know at any moment you could be taken away.” Julio Salazar, a junior, understands the plight of not knowing whether he would be able to continue living in the United States and excelling in our country’s public school system or not. Living as an undocumented student for seven years, Salazar is an outspoken advocate for immigrant rights. Salazar says that going back to Mexico to apply for a visa and begin the residency process was a foreign experience because even though his birth certificate reports that he was born in Mexico, it is not written on his heart. He added that this experience is a common thread among many undocumented students who consider themselves Americans because the United States is the only home they have ever known. Deportation would thus disenfranchise and surrender an entire generation of Americans who currently make academic, economic and social contributions to our society.
As students of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s, we are called to support undocumented students on our campuses. The Holy Family themselves were migrants, and Pope Francis reminds us that the question God posed to Cain, “Where is your brother?” is a question directed to each one of us. By acting in solidarity with the undocumented on campus, as Pope Francis said, “We are putting into practice the commandment of love that Jesus bequeathed to us when he identified with the foreigner, with those who are suffering, with all the innocent victims of violence and exploitation.” As students, faculty and staff at Notre Dame, St. Mary’s and Holy Cross, we have a duty to protect our family and to act on that commandment of love.
Currently, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) provides protection for many undocumented students on our campuses. The program was created in 2012 to grant provisional security through authorization of residence and work within the country without the threat of deportation under the law. DACA has given a chance to an estimated 750,000 immigrants to be valuable members of the workforce who make significant contributions to the economy, help create jobs, enrich culture through language and talent and make the United States what it is and strives to be. However, DACA is under threat by the current administration, which means that thousands of undocumented immigrants, including students on our campuses, are vulnerable to deportation. To ensure the security of DACA individuals, the bipartisan BRIDGE (Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy) Act has been introduced in Congress, which would allow young people to continue to work and live here by granting provisional protected presence for three years past the expiration of the DACA program. The three-year extension of time given by the BRIDGE Act would therefore also provide peace of mind for those who face the fear of deportation and being torn away from their family and community members in the United States. Supporting the BRIDGE Act is not only an indirect investment in our economy, but also a promotion of the success of the members of rising generations who have and will continue to shape the future of our country and can be an important demonstration of solidarity for the undocumented students on our campuses whose identities, families and futures are connected with the U.S. and the American dream offered here.
On February 20th, President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., released a statement in The Observer urging members of the Notre Dame community to “express unqualified backing” for the BRIDGE Act, “which has broad bipartisan support, would codify protection for our DACA students and classmates.” This issue is “timely and urgent,” stated Jenkins. Notre Dame’s mission statement emphasizes that, “[t]he intellectual interchange essential to a university requires, and is enriched by, the presence and voices of diverse scholars and students.” The loss of students, faculty and staff from our community that would occur with the rescinding of DACA would be devastating not only to those directly affected, but also would be detrimental to what the University itself calls “essential.” By signing this petition, which we will present to Representative Walorski in our upcoming meeting with her, you can take concrete action and make sure that the voices of our community and our support for the BRIDGE Act are heard. As Julio Salazar expressed, “Living the American Dream is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. It’s an American issue. So let’s protect those people who are living and working for the American Dream and make it easier for them to achieve it.”
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.