University President pledges support for undocumented students



Maria McGeary

On Nov. 30, the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities released a statement of support for students who meet the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. Among the 70 signatories of this statement was University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., Ph.D.

“Our college and University communities are home to students from around the world who seek to contribute to American society, to the life and mission of the Church, and to their own formation and growth by pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees,” the statement reads. “We, the undersigned presidents of Catholic colleges and universities, express hope that the students in our communities who have qualified for DACA are able to continue their studies without interruption and that many more students in their situation will be welcome to contribute their talents to our campuses.”

The letter also refers to Pope Francis’ sentiments at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia during the fall of 2015, “Many of you have emigrated (I greet you warmly!) to this country at great personal cost, in the hope of building a new life. 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.” 

Senior Brendan Carchidi ’17, Madiah Gant ’19 and Gabriela Puche ’18 brought the letter to Donohue’s attention before Thanksgiving. 

“I presented Father with several documents explaining DACA, in addition to the letter written by the President of Pomona College,” Carchidi said. “As soon as I mentioned the letter, Father was enthusiastic about signing it. I thought he would have to check with the University’s PR office or the like. Instead Father pulled me by the arm to his computer, and I watched him sign the letter before our meeting was over.”

Georgetown, La Salle, Boston College and Catholic University of America were also among the undersigned. 

Created in June of 2012 by President Barack Obama, the policy offers deferred action to those who qualify. According to Carchidid it has served over 750,000 undocumented students across the country. Deferment does not grant legal status, but stays the further accruement of unlawful presence in the nation for a time period. Those with deferred action are also permitted to apply for employment authorization. Those eligible for this deferment are under 31 years old and came to the United States while under the age of 16. While the deferred action application form is free, the cost of background checks and other applications required total $465. According to the policy, fee exemptions are offered but very limited. The continatuion of this policy is also dependent on the passing of the DREAM Act.

“The president-elect is likely to select Jeff Sessions, the junior senator from Alabama to be the next US Attorney General who, like Trump, has been vehemently against this bill since its onset,” Carchidi said. “Both Trump and Sessions have promised to eliminate this program within the first several weeks of the new administration’s takeover.”

According to the Washington Post, an earlier statement signed by over 400 college and university leaders urged the expansion of the DACA. While the ACCU’s letter does not explicitly express support for the policy, it does pledge to support the students protected by it.

“I think we must remember that our Villanovan community, and in particular our vast network of alumni, are historically politically conservative,” Carchidi said. 

“So, for Father to openly support not just any policy but what was a controversial executive order by President Obama is groundbreaking. Our University is changing in what we look like, and how we think and act — for the better, I might add.”