Building our sanctuary, one student at a time
Letter to the Editor | Monday, November 22, 2021
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, we take the time to rest and reflect on core questions of sanctuary. What does it mean to feel safe and welcomed in a family? What does it mean to be home? On the grounds of its 2013 decision to admit undocumented first-year and transfer students and its firm foundations in Catholic Social Teaching, the University of Notre Dame is committed to preserving the common good and fostering a home for all members of its family, regardless of immigration status.
The reality is that the United States has been inconsistent in providing stable legal protections for undocumented communities and families. A simple movement of a pen can radically change the life of nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants. This instability of immigration law and the pervasiveness of xenophobic discourse leaves many constantly questioning their statuses and anxious about whether they can safely navigate spaces in communities nationwide.
This is significant, given the pronounced population of students from immigrant backgrounds in U.S. institutions of higher education. There are an estimated 5.3 million, and growing, college students who are either first or second-generation immigrants. And estimates suggest there are roughly 427,000 undocumented and DACA-eligible college students nationwide.
Wherever we work, study, live or play — at Notre Dame and beyond — the chances are that we are walking alongside members of the undocumented student community. These members of our Notre Dame family come from various immigrant backgrounds and statuses. They are diverse in race, ethnicity, faiths, gender, sexuality, culture and national origin. Each has a unique story to tell. And each has a dream they are fighting to realize.
Care for this common home requires that we honor the diversity and complexity of the immigrant student experience. We must fight to forge inclusive and welcoming spaces for all members of the Notre Dame family. We must educate ourselves on the immigrant experience and seek honest answers amid a climate of harmful mistruths and political indifference. And we must speak truth: No student should have to fear being the target of xenophobic discrimination, and all students, regardless of their immigration status, have the equal right to safely live, learn and flourish at this University.
In his statement on World Migrants Day in 2021, Pope Francis makes clear that the principles of Catholic Social Teaching extend to all immigrants. This is grounded in our understanding of God Himself. Christ “died and rose ‘so that they may all be one,’ (Jn 17:21),” calling us to see that salvation, as understood in the Catholic Church, begins and ends with “we” — in solidarity.
The Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching (CST) explain and emphasize the importance of preserving human dignity and demonstrating compassion by caring for others, particularly, the vulnerable. At this University, we are called on to uphold these teachings and actionably do so by embracing and welcoming all members of our Notre Dame family, regardless of status. CST articulates that every “person is precious” and that “people are more important than things.”
Solidarity and equity are foundational pillars of this Student Government administration’s platform. We have committed to taking bold action to foster an inclusive community to ensure the Notre Dame experience is equitable for everyone. We reiterate and affirm this campaign promise as we call for the Notre Dame Student Body to stand in solidarity and allyship with our undocumented student community on campus, their families and those within the surrounding community. As Fr. Jenkins often articulates, “Either we are all Notre Dame, or none of us are.” It is essential that we commit to take action in our daily lives, to uphold the value and common good in all members of our Notre Dame community.
We understand that there will be students who will look over this statement and feel as though they have no stake in the conversation. Instead, we hope that you read this and feel compelled to educate yourself and serve as an ally in situations where you are called to do so. Campus resources and organizations include Student Coalition for Immigration Advocacy (SCIA) and Dream ND, both of which offer resources and programming for undocumented students and allies. If you are interested in engaging in allyship for undocumented immigrants in the greater community, the Student Policy Network offers the Indiana Driving Record Card Project, which pursues driving cards for undocumented residents in Indiana.
We highlight a new on-campus resource to foster this inclusive community and call for students to engage with the incoming UndocuAlly Program. By educating ourselves, listening to our peers and engaging in honest dialogue, we can do our part to help ensure Notre Dame is a safe community for our undocumented students. Furthermore, we call on the Notre Dame administration to continue to iterate and demonstrate its commitment to standing in solidarity with our undocumented student community.
So, as we take the time to celebrate the blessings of family and home this Thanksgiving, we strongly encourage you to have these important conversations even if you do not feel personally impacted. The support and inclusion of undocumented members of the Notre Dame community — the work of building our sanctuary — is something that every student can take part in, and it starts with all of us.
Allan Njomo ’22
Student Body President
Matthew Bisner ’22
Student Body Vice President
Alix Basden ’22
Student Body Chief of Staff
Cassidy Ferrell ’22
Director, Department of Student Empowerment
Nicholas Crookston ’23
Campus Safety Chair, Diversity Council of Notre Dame
Irasema Hernandez Trujillo ’24
Co-Lead, Indiana Driver Record Card Project
Benjamín Rascón Gracia ’24
Co-Lead, Indiana Driver Record Card Project
Aidee Barajas ’23
Member, Department of Student Empowerment
Sofia Casillas ’24
Policy Lead, Department of University Policy
Director, Dream ND
Advising Faculty, Center for University Advising
Associate Professor and Chair, Department of American Studies
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.