BY ISN STAFF | December 20, 2017

In early December, ISN and the Jesuit Conference Office of Justice and Ecology partnered to mobilize the Jesuit network in support of undocumented young people in the U.S., advocating for passage of Dream Act legislation.

Across the U.S., more than 4,000 letters were hand-delivered to the offices of more than sixty members of Congress by parishioners, students, and teachers at ISN member institutions. The letter affirms the inherent dignity of those who migrate to the U.S., urging Congress to come to a legislative solution to create a path to citizenship, particularly for those who came to the U.S. as children.

Schools and parishes held letter-signing events and partnered with other institutions and community organizations to gather letters through early December.

Twelve Walsh Jesuit High School students, accompanied by two teachers, met with a staff assistant in Senator Rob Portman’s Cleveland, Ohio office, where they shared stories of peers with DACA status, framed their Dream Act advocacy within the tradition of Catholic social teaching, and asked questions regarding the Senator’s support of Dreamers in the U.S.

The group delivered 700 letters to Senator Portman’s office, gathered at a variety of letter-writing campaigns. Students began their efforts during lunchtime at the school. Tony Dipre, a theology teacher at Walsh Jesuit, was struck by “the vast diversity of students, faculty, and administrators approaching our table during lunchtime. It was encouraging that many people came to show support, but many others came to engage in conversation, not knowing what to think about the issue. The receptiveness to have a conversation about immigration and grow in understanding has been helpful to our school community, with dialogue leading to a more humane sense of why we, as Catholics, should care about immigration.”

Walsh Jesuit High School students speak with Raymond Paoletta, staff assistant in Senator Rob Portman’s Cleveland office.

Dipre also shared that his students were motivated to amplify their impact by speaking at their own parishes. At the Church of the Resurrection in Solon, Ohio, the former Chairman and CEO of Sherwin Williams, Christopher Connor, contributed to the letter-writing campaign, articulating to Senator Portman the importance of this issue as a person of faith, as an individual from an immigrant family, and from an economic perspective. Students additionally spoke and gathered letters at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Hudson, Ohio and St. Ambrose Catholic Parish in Brunswick, Ohio.

Of the experience of visiting Senator Portman’s Cleveland office, Dipre says that “it was a good experience for these students to articulate why our faith calls us to ‘welcome the stranger.’ It was particularly encouraging to see the energy after the meeting, discussing next steps to remain active and involved in this issue.

700 letters from Walsh Jesuit High School, John Carroll University, and various Cleveland, Ohio-area Catholic parishes are delivered to Senator Rob Portman’s Cleveland, Ohio office.

Christopher Kerr, Ignatian Solidarity Network executive director, emphasizes the urgency of efforts to protect Dreamers in the U.S. “Every day that we wait, we play with their lives,” he told America Magazine earlier this month. “These are young men and women who are studying, working, have families and they don’t know where they’re going to be in the next few months. It hurts them, it hurts their families and it takes away their potential contribution to this country.”  

Join efforts to call for a Dream Act in 2017 now.

BY ISN STAFF | December 15, 2017

On Sunday, October 29, 2017, members of the Xavier University community gathered at an outdoor candlelit ceremony. Those gathered included leaders of prominent student organizations and Xavier University President Fr. Graham.

The event kicked off the campus’s 2017 UndocuWeek, a week of opportunities to advocate and pledge support for the undocumented community and the DREAM Act.

Organizers aimed to collect 1,000 letters from members of the Xavier community addressed to Senator Rob Portman, urging him to support the DREAM Act. “We smashed this goal and reached 1,429 letters,” shared Zeina Farhat, an UndocuWeek student organizer and president of Xavier’s Student Government Association. Student volunteers worked throughout the week to collect letters in the student center and outside of the cafeteria each day. Two phone-a-thons late in the week attracted approximately 200 Xavier students who made calls to Senator Portman’s local and D.C. offices.

The week also featured a mock checkpoint experience, a t-shirt giveaway, an immigration panel discussion, and participation in the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center (IJPC) Youth Educating Society (YES) Rally outside of Senator Portman’s local office which was attended by more than 50 students.

“As a senior, I can certainly say that this was the most impactful week of programming and advocacy that I have witnessed in my four years at Xavier,” shared Farhat. “It was incredibly powerful to see how many students, most not affiliated with the organizations that planned the week, donated hours of their time to sit outside of the cafeteria or in the student center and were willing to have difficult conversations with people who did not necessarily agree with our efforts. I think as students we sometimes forget that our voices matter. We are capable of making an impact— the stack of 1,400 letters proved that.”

Voice your support for the DREAM Act now!

View Xavier University’s UndocuWeek video:

View news coverage of the IJPC YES Rally in Cincinnati:

BY SOPHIA FERRIES-ROWE | November 21, 2017

On the morning of September 3, I received a text from a friend that read “It’s official” with an attachment to The Hill’s early reporting on President Trump’s DACA decision.

My heart dropped. I felt heartbroken, angry; defeated but determined. On one hand, I wanted to throw up my hands in defeat, but on the other, I knew I had to do something to show that this would not stand.

On August 30, my friends – Casey Ernest, Elaine Esposito, and Mary Claire Molloy – had invited me to help organize a rally for immigrant rights at Brebeuf in response to President Trump’s order. Casey and Mary Claire heard about the issue in their religion class in the morning and were immediately inspired to do something about it.

Rally signs in front of the school’s statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Photo: Alex Shukri, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School

Initial planning meetings started with Brebeuf’s Director of Community Service, Nick Klingler, on August 31, five days before Trump’s decision deadline. It was clear that he would most likely eliminate DACA, but we didn’t want to plan specifics because we were hopeful that he’d surprise us.

On September 5, President Trump officially declared that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), created as a result of President Obama’s presidential order, would be ended after a six-month delay. This means that 800,000 individuals brought to America by their parents could be deported despite having been raised in the U.S.

The first step of planning the rally was finding a date. We needed a time that was convenient for the largest number of people, close enough to September 5 that the issue would not have been replaced with something else beforehand. The first date that fit all the criteria was Monday, September 11. (Yes. We know. More on that later.)

Ana Mendoza spoke about the issue from a DREAMer’s perspective, emphasizing the importance of the issue. Photo: Alex Shukri, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School

We started planning the rally for a 15-minute period the following Monday. We reached out to teachers, club leaders, and class presidents and invited them to attend Brebeuf’s Rally for Immigrant Rights.

After finding a date, we thought more about the takeaway from the rally. Our main goal was that people leave with the intention of contacting their representatives as soon as possible. To achieve that, however, we needed more people to be educated on the issue first.

Social media was an important aspect of the rally. Photo: Alex Shukri, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School

Mr. Klingler, director for community service at Brebeuf, contacted the executive director of the Indianapolis Immigrant Welcome Center, Terri Morris Downs, to speak at the rally about DACA itself, what it meant for Indianapolis, why its reversal was so harmful, and finally why student advocacy was so important. By inviting leaders on this issue from our community, we were able to spread the message to a larger audience than just the students at Brebeuf.

On Monday at 12:25, I left my physics class, following a crowd of people to the St. Ignatius statue in front of Brebeuf. By the time Ms. Downs started speaking, there were about 150 people in front of St. Ignatius. The group of us that planned the rally made eye contact with each other from across the crowd and smiled with that look of “Wow, we really pulled it off.”

Students march on school grounds after the rally. Photo: Alex Shukri, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School

Downs gave a brief overview of the issue, then discussed how it is the responsibility of those with privilege to stand up for those being discriminated against. On that note, we started marching. Brebeuf senior Ana Mendoza led the group in chants as we circled the lawn. We chanted “No hate, no fear, DREAMers are welcome here!” as people took videos and pictures with our “BJPS for DREAMers” Snapchat filter. It was a very high-energy, inspirational, unbelievable 15 minutes.

Students pose with a sign for social media during the rally. Photo: Alex Shukri, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School

After the rally, everyone headed inside. It was then that we really saw the impact of the rally. Even the moderator of the Young Republicans club remarked that he was impressed. Administrators discussed how proud they were.

However, those were not the only people giving us feedback. Some students were upset that the rally was hosted on 9/11. They went to the administration declaring that we’d disrespected the President, the military, the victims of 9/11, the families in mourning, and the flag. They were upset that we did not pause for a day to remember the lives lost.

We wanted the takeaway from the rally to be that students contact Congress to share the news of our rally; we needed to be on as much social media as possible. For me, though, this became a surprisingly difficult task because of the bad feedback. Even though I knew there were more positive comments than negative, it was difficult to stop playing the negative feedback over and over again in my head.

I started telling myself that any post I made wouldn’t make much of a difference so it wouldn’t be worth it. For two days afterward I was radio silent on my social media out of shame and fear.

A sketch created by the author for social media, encouraging members of the school community to take action as advocates for Dreamers.

After two days, I took a deep breath, drafted my Instagram post, and sent it out to the world because I knew the rally wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about making everyone happy. It wasn’t about 9/11, a day that should never be turned into a time of paralysis and silence. It was about protecting the 800,000 young people at risk of being deported, and even if my post was not going to make or break Congress’s decision, it was my responsibility to do what I could.

The feedback I received was all positive. People from my rowing team asked about what the rally was, why that issue was important, and what they could do. We succeeded. We created dialogue and promoted understanding specifically so that we could communicate to Congress our beliefs about what they should do. News of our rally was posted on Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and even Facebook (thanks, adults!). Support came from all sides and most importantly there were lots of people contacting their representatives.

For the group that helped organize the rally with the help of Mr. Klingler, this experience showed just how much high school students can do. Activism is not about age or experience but about dedication and a willingness to do what is right. Brebeuf demonstrated that not only are we willing to speak up and use our privilege for the betterment of society, but that we are able to. It ignited a new passion in Brebeuf’s social justice club and provided an example of what our work could look like in action.

BY MIKE GABRIELE | November 18, 2017

Editor’s note: This piece was originally published by the Jesuits East and is republished here with permission. 

Although nearly 6,000 miles away, Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., responded to the needs of a family in dire straits—a Kurdish family of eight from Syria desperate to find a safer life far from their war-torn region. As parishioners at a Jesuit parish, the Holy Trinity community felt a personal affinity to Pope Francis’ call to help those caught in the ever-escalating global refugee crisis. When they became aware of a Syrian family hoping to flee a daily existence of constant danger, they did more than offer prayers; they reached across that 6,000-mile divide.

“Finally having this family in our care was as much a gift for us as for them.” — Kate Tromble, pastoral associate for social justice

“Our parishioners responded whole-heartedly to the pope’s appeal for action,” said Holy Trinity Pastor, Fr. Kevin Gillespie, SJ. “And when things looked bleak, no one gave up.” Filling out forms, tracking down housing, finding schools, and organizing donations were only some of the challenges. The Trump administration’s temporary travel ban put an indefinite hold on getting the family on a plane.

“The constant uncertainty is what I think affected everyone most,” explained Kate Tromble, Holy Trinity’s pastoral associate for social justice. “Their arrival hinged on so many factors; it was emotionally exhausting at times.” When hope seemed to fade for a few days, waiting and wondering if the family’s exodus would ever happen, parishioners came together for a prayer vigil with Fr. Gillespie and Fr. Leo O’Donovan, SJ, of the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, praying that God would safely deliver this family into their care.

Their prayers were answered. Despite repeated delays, this bewildered family in crisis finally made their journey halfway around the world. After nearly 48 hours of travel, they arrived in Washington, D.C., in the dead of night, greeted by a host of Holy Trinity parishioners who had grown to love them so much already. “Finally having this family in our care was as much a gift for us as for them,” said Tromble. “We as a parish community truly learned from this experience what it’s like to be poor, afraid, and living on the margins.”

Fr. Kevin Gillespie, SJ, led a prayer vigil when efforts to help their refugee family faced a roadblock. Photo: Lisa Belkin/Yahoo News

Receiving this Kurdish family at the airport was akin to a long-awaited homecoming, complete with gifts and tears of joy. And despite the hard language barrier, love needed no interpreters. It was clear to both sides that the bond shared here could only stem from unconditional love and acceptance.

Holy Trinity’s commitment to this family was far from over. “There are many phases to helping refugees like this,” Fr. Gillespie said. “Assistance goes far beyond just getting them here. We have to help sustain them for the future.” Indeed, the family needed to get set up in their new housing, learn the neighborhood, acclimate to our culture and standards, start school and language classes, find work—and the list goes on.

Bumps in the road were expected and realized—from needing doctors for sudden medical conditions to finding a child lost in town—but progress continues to be made. The children are all in school with one making honor roll, and parishioners are helping the parents find gainful employment.

“We know they are grateful,” said Tromble. “And we ourselves are moved by the amazing tradition of hospitality with Syrian Kurds. Whenever we go to their home, even just to drop something off, they always insist we stay and spend some time with them. They are a very warm and loving family, which says a lot after all they’ve been through.”

BY ISN STAFF | September 29, 2017

On Tuesday, September 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would end the DACA program within six months.

The Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago has been on the forefront of support, admission, and matriculation of DACA medical students, and in 2014 became the first medical school in the U.S. to admit DACA recipients, welcoming seven students with this status into the class of 2018.

In a sign of solidarity with their peers who are DACA recipients, numerous current Stritch School of Medicine student organizations published a public letter in support of Loyola University Chicago’s commitment to accepting undocumented students.

Students at Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine show their support for the Dream Act of 2017, legislation that would provide conditional residency and a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, including over 30 students studying medicine at Stritch.

“It is inspiring as an educator at Loyola to see how the Ignatian ethos resonates with the students, “ said Mark G. Kuczewski, professor of Medical Ethics, chair of the Department of Medical Education, and director of the Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics & Health Policy at Loyola University Chicago. “They genuinely seem to find God in each other and naturally reach out in solidarity with those threatened by marginalization.”

Letter from Stritch School of Medicine Student Organization Leaders:

The Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine was the first medical school to openly welcome undocumented immigrants with DACA status to apply and matriculate as students. The recent removal of DACA threatens the future of our 32 colleagues (the most of any medical school in the United States) who have already invested so much in their efforts to improve the health of our country. They have overcome immense barriers, and competed on a level playing field to be members of our academic community. We find it necessary as student leaders to call for support of the bipartisan Dream Act, which would ensure protection of the future and safety of undocumented youth across the United States.

Loyola is a Jesuit institution; our mission is founded upon the principles of social justice and service to humanity. In pursuit of this mission, the training of a diverse physician workforce is paramount—people of all backgrounds should be admitted not only to promote equal opportunity, but also to deliver more culturally competent care across the socioeconomic spectrum of patients. Furthermore, our nation is experiencing a profound shortage of physicians, specifically those working in underserved communities—data has shown that underrepresented minorities go on to practice in these settings at significantly higher rates.

Contrary to persistent efforts made to portray them as criminals or freeloaders, 91% of DACA recipients are either employed or enrolled in school, even though they don’t qualify for federally subsidized student loans. Eligibility for DACA status requires that an undocumented immigrant arrive in this country prior to the age of sixteen and have been in this country at least five years without a criminal record. These individuals are contributing, tax-paying residents of the United States, the only country most have ever called home. In our own medical school and across the country, they make us a better society.

It is time for us to be advocates for our patients as well as our colleagues. This should not be a partisan issue; both liberal and conservative-leaning classmates of ours widely support the rights of our undocumented peers. They are the neighbors, classmates, and co-workers that make our communities strong. The Dream Act is a permanent solution for these undocumented individuals which gives them both a path to legal status, and more importantly, protection from deportation. We call upon leaders in the medical community, alumni of Jesuit education, and Americans of all walks of life to seek justice for our peers of DACA status. Now more than ever it is imperative to make our voices heard.


Rana Alcheikh
Society of Women’s Health, Co-President

Lexi Riopelle
Society of Women’s Health, Co-President

Elizabeth Southworth
Building the Next Generation of Future Physicians (Academic Medicine), Co-President

Christian Perez
PSYCH MIND, Co-President

Kyle Wieschhaus
Viva La Familia, President

Elizabeth Southworth
PULSE- Pipeline program, Co-Coordinator

Brittany Watchmaker
Pediatric Interest Group, President
PULSE- Pipeline program, Co-Coordinator

Jenny Lee
Building the Next Generation of Future Physicians (Academic Medicine), Secretary
PSYCH MIND, Vice President

Jacquelyn Dang
LUC Mentors, Co-Director
Mission of Our Lady of Angels, Leadership Board

Dylan Douglas
Quinn Community Center, Secretary

Maria Poonawalla
Students for a National Health Program, Co-President

Laura Burns
Oncology Interest Group, President

Brandon Trac
Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association, President

Yo Sup Kim
Radiation Oncology Interest Group, President

Jazzmyne Montgomery
American Medical Women’s Association, President

Taylor Petrusevski
Emergency Medicine Interest Group, Secretary

Eric J. Magnetta
Students Curious in Outrageous Pathology Experiences, President

Lauren Steinberg
Oncology Interest Group, Vice President
Jewish Student Association, President

Diamond Stevens
Student National Medical Association, Vice President

Kathryn Swain
Cardiovascular Interest Group, Vice President

Jennifer Shieh
Ultrasound Interest Group, Vice President

Naveen Kanji
South Asian Medical Student Association, Co-President
LUC Mentors, Co-Director
Health Career Academy, Co-Director

Boss Povieng
ATC Health Coaching, Co-Coordinator

Eda Akyar
Community Health Primary Care Clinic, Clinic Coordinator

Sarah Lloyd
Family Medicine Interest Group, Vice President
American Medical Women’s Association, Vice President-Mentorship

Aaron Perlow
M1 Class Board 2021, President

Deena Kishawi
Muslim Medical Student Association, President
Physicians for Human Rights, President
Orthopedic Surgery Interest Group, President

Weston Terrasse
Business in Medicine Interest Group, President
Otolaryngology Interest Group, Vice President

Andia Mitri
Community Health Primary Care Clinic, Fundraising Chair

Grant Van der Voort
Community Health Primary Care Clinic, Fundraising

John Wagner
New Life Volunteering Society Free Health Clinic, President
Veteran Health Partners, President
Housing Forward, Co-Coordinator

Tanesha Beebe
Stritch Pride, President

Hollie Schaffer
Otolaryngology Interest Group, President
Community Health Primary Care Clinic, Fundraising Comittee

Yaeji Park
Vascular Surgery Interest Group, President

Patrick Kramer
M4 Class Board, Class of 2018, President

Brandon Carlos Karcher
Latino Medical Student Association, President

Blake Murphy
American Medical Association SSOM Chapter, President

Andrea Grillini
Community Health Phlebotomy Clinic, Co-Coordinator
Bioethics Interest Group, Vice President

Khalil Boussi
Back On My Feet, President

Vlad Didorchuk
Ophthalmology Interest Group, President

Mitra Mossaddad
M3 Class Board, Class of 2019, President

Matthew Kroll
Jewish Student Association, President

Gabrielle Matias
Neurological Surgery Interest Group, Co-President
Community Health Primary Care Clinic, EMR Chair

Bria Murray
Student National Medical Association, Treasurer

Charles Wu
Community Health Primary Care Clinic, Treasurer

Kimber Sable
Ophthalmology Interest Group, Vice President
Student Wellness Advisory Group, Co-President

Jamie Neelon
PRIDE, Vice President
SCIPEC, Co-President
Surgery Interest Group

Sahand Ghodrati
M2 Class Board, Class of 2020, President

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network News From the Network series.

BY ISN STAFF | September 27, 2017

On Saturday, September 16, 2017, the Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic (LIJC) at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles hosted a free public workshop to process DACA renewals, with both students and alumni volunteering at the event.

Sixty-five DACA recipients were served at the event, with approximately forty additional individuals referred to other organizations for support.

Loyola attorneys present included LIJC Co-Directors Marissa Montes ’12 and Emily Robinson ’12, as well as staff attorneys Alejandro Barajas ’15, Yanira Lemus ’15 and Sandra Ruiz ’14.

“The high turnout of applicants and volunteers was truly inspirational,” said alumna and adjunct professor Marissa Montes ’12, co-founder and co-director of the Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic. “Despite the Administration’s attacks on the immigrant community, I was overwhelmed with hope seeing the outpouring of support we received from our volunteers, students and alumni.”

Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic staff supervised the event. Pictured: Yanira Lemus, staff attorney; LIJC Co-Director Marissa Montes; Sandra Ruiz, staff attorney; student volunteer Karla Ballesteros; Co-Director Emily Robinson; and staff attorney Alejandro Barajas. All LICJ attorneys are alumni of Loyola Law School, Los Angeles.

The Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic is the only law school-housed community-based immigration clinic in the United States. The LIJC’s dual-pronged mission is to advance the rights of the indigent immigrant population in East Los Angeles through direct legal services, education and community empowerment, while teaching law students effective legal skills and ethics in a real-world setting. More than 50 students have participated in the LIJC since its 2012 inception, assisting the clinic in conducting more than 10,000 client consultations. 

Christian Perez, 30, was one of nearly 100 clients who attended the free DACA renewal event hosted by the Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. “Today was really important. I want to get a career instead of a job,” said Perez, who attended with his 3-year-old daughter, Yarelli.

The LIJC has been at the forefront of advocacy for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which provides temporary relief to those brought to the U.S. as children meeting certain age, status and education or military service requirements. It has intensified its efforts in the wake of significant changes promised by the Trump Administration, including a recent order rescinding the program.

Since January 2016, the LIJC already has assisted with more than 420 DACA applications and renewals. Now, with an impending Oct. 5, 2017 deadline for DACA recipients to file renewals, the LIJC is training volunteers to help with the additional workload and provide more assistance.

Loyola immigration-law experts have been a key part of the national dialogue on DACA, offering their perspectives to a variety of media outlets in the hope of providing some tangible actions and encouragement to those whose DACA status is in jeopardy.

“It is very important to assess all of your legal options,” LIJC Co-Director Emily Robinson told KABC-TV in an interview, excerpted by NPR. “At this point, when we don’t know who is being prioritized and we’re unsure of enforcement actions, it’s very important to take the time to understand the entire legal landscape of your legal status.”

Professor Kathleen Kim, faculty adviser to Loyola’s Immigrant Advocacy Concentration, helped assess exactly what is at stake for those enrolled in schools. “Depending on their state, students who lose their DACA status are at risk of losing their tuition eligibility,” Kim told PRI’s “The World.” “There are many schools that have proactively worked toward increasing scholarship funds for those and other undocumented students.”

Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic Ray Chavez reviews a client’s DACA renewal file at the free Sept. 16 DACA renewal clinic at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles.

Elsewhere, LIJC attorneys opined on the impact DACA’s rescission will have on society. “DACA has impacted family stability and building of communities. It has allowed parents to work legally in the U.S. and earn an income in order to provide for their families, which include their own parents, their children and extended family members such as their siblings,” LIJC Co-Director Montes told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Amid last fall’s presidential election, the LIJC began expanding its DACA-specific outreach, deploying its staff attorneys to myriad site visits to explain the intricacies of DACA. Clinic staff attorneys regularly visit campuses like East Los Angeles College to consult with students. Additionally, the LIJC has seen record turnout at its regular intake events at East L.A.’s Homeboy Industries and Dolores Mission Church.

Loyola Law School volunteer attorneys review client files before final processing at the Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic held on Sept. 16, 2017.

As the need for immigration services escalates, Loyola staff attorneys, professors, and students underscore their pride in Loyola’s commitment to public service. “We are fortunate to be part of Loyola Law School where we are truly trained to be lawyers for others,” said Robinson.

Loyola Marymount University’s President, Timothy Law Snyder, also has come out strongly in support of undocumented students. Snyder has expressed his position publicly via Twitter, in interviews with news media including The Atlantic, and in a community letter where he stated “Since the advent of DACA, we have experienced its profound benefits for our students and its positive impacts on our university and our nation. Dreamers on our campus have been and are exemplary scholars and leaders. Thanks to DACA, these students and alumni have pursued opportunities in business, education, tech, and nonprofit sectors. They contribute actively to our communities and they strengthen our economy. They represent what is best about America, and they are essential to our future.”

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network News From the Network series.

BY SUSAN HAARMAN | September 11, 2017

Since the news came out about President Trump’s actions on DACA less than a week ago, my heart has been reeling from witnessing human dignity and rights of individuals so easily dismissed. I wanted to shout the line from yesterday’s second reading from Romans: “…and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ to anyone who would listen.” (Romans 13: 9) How can we not see DACA recipients who have been living, learning, and working alongside us their entire adult lives as our neighbors?

But many of us may have friends or family for whom the idea of seeing a DACA recipient as their neighbor in the way that Christ calls would be challenging. These might be the same family members we tense up around at holidays or friends with whom we change the subject when topics turn to politics, race, or other social justice issues. We might find ourselves assuming that they are beyond persuading—that it’s not worth the emotional time and effort.

[DACA rally at Loyola Marymount University, 9/2017]

But if you’re like me and identify as a person holding mostly privileged identities (I’m a white U.S. citizen), as tempting as it is to just sit back and avoid conflict or hard conversations around DACA, we can’t—and the first reading and the Gospel make that very clear.

Ezekiel lets us know that we are responsible for the care of each other’s souls. When the people we care about are espousing opinions or ideas drenched in hate or rooted in the sin of racism, we are called to love and care enough about them as people to dialogue directly with them. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us to go directly to the people we may be in conflict with, be honest about what we think and feel, and see if it changes their hearts. We root our call to justice in our own relationships.

But also, perhaps more importantly, we have these conversations so our brothers and sisters on the margins don’t have to. We can shoulder some of the emotional burden that people of color, DACA recipients, and other oppressed folks experience every day. We can have conversations with family, friends, and community members that might be challenging and difficult and potentially be less at risk for being further labeled in ways our marginalized brothers and sisters wouldn’t. If you’re like me, every day you benefit from white supremacy even though you never asked to and it’s the antithesis of everything you believe in.

So every day, challenge yourself to reach out to those in your life whose actions and words don’t reflect that Kingdom Christ sought to create. Choose to have the hard conversations, to stay in relationships with those people, and hope to help them see that we are all neighbors.

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network Rise Up: A Weekly Call to Solidarity series.

BY KELLY SWAN | September 6, 2017

Growing up as a son of immigrants in a segregated, vulnerable community in Milwaukee, Eduardo Perea-Hernandez saw Marquette University as a “Harvard”—picturesque, prestigious, with a nationally-renowned basketball team.

“As a Latino child, you don’t see anyone of your kind at these institutions,” remembers Perea-Hernandez. “But if you do see one or two from your neighborhood attend college at Marquette you think—‘I’m going to do that too.’”

“I grew up in the south side of Milwaukee, the Latino section of town, where drugs, prostitution, and shootings were a norm, education levels are low, and teen pregnancy is high,” shares Perea-Hernandez. “However, the Latino community is very rich in culture and intellect…. There is so much talent inside of every individual in the community, they just need the guidance of a school like Nativity to help them realize their potential.”

He attended Nativity Jesuit Middle School, where, as a sixth grader, he learned Jesuit values, leadership skills, and the powerful idea that he could contribute to his community. “As an 11-year-old,” he shares, “I realized that my Latino community is meant for bigger than this.”

[tweet_box design=”box_07″ float=”none”]I realized that my Latino community is meant for bigger than this.[/tweet_box]

Nativity, a school whose mission is to educate Latino youth for Christian leadership and service, changed the trajectory of Perea-Hernandez’s life, exposing him “to the solution to many problems a young Latino kid from the ‘hood faces.” Rather than an authoritarian school structure, Perea-Hernandez explains that he was given “the educational tools that allowed me to think thoroughly about my decisions to make the good ones, and when I chose wrongly I learned to recover from it. Nativity taught me how to be a leader in my household, community, and city.”

After middle school, Perea-Hernandez entered Marquette University High School, an all-boys school enrolling a very different demographic from Nativity. Many of his classmates were entirely unaware of the realities of immigration. “I became more and more vocal throughout high school,” he remembers. “I wanted to give them facts about why people migrate.”

Eduardo Perea-Hernandez is now a first-generation college attendee, a senior fulfilling his dream of enrolling at Marquette University. Nonetheless, he expresses some frustration with his campus culture. “I thought students would be more socially aware,” he explains. “But it is much like high school,” with few students of color or immigrants, primarily from suburban Jesuit high schools.

However, the university has given him a safe space and support to raise awareness surrounding issues that administrators and non-minority students do not experience—struggles familiar to students of color and undocumented and other immigrant students.

Eva Martinez Powless is director of Intercultural Engagement at Marquette University. Her work is to give voice to students like Perea-Hernandez. Martinez Powless immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, and through her work is uniquely situated to provide support to the entire campus multicultural community. She is the founder of the school’s undocumented student taskforce and runs a group for Dreamer students at Marquette.

In 2016, a group of students from Youth Empowered to Succeed (YES) program at Marquette were seeking to explore ways to improve the campus experience for undocumented students. Through connections in the immigration advocacy community, Martinez Powless was aware of a gala to benefit Dreamer students in Chicago. She proposed the idea to the student group, who were immediately enthusiastic about the idea.

The first Dreamers’ Gala was held at the University in March of 2016, entirely student-initiated and student-led, benefitting the new Ignacio Ellacuria Dreamers Scholarship. The gala raised $28,000 in just the first year with 180 attendees.

Martinez Powless notes that the gala was able to create a unique alumni affinity group of multicultural alumni who may not have typically donated to the university, as well as significant support in the Milwaukee community.

The Ignacio Ellacuria, S.J., Dreamers Scholarship Gala is a student-led initiative that aims to raise money to create a scholarship for undocumented students who wish to attend Marquette University.

Perea-Hernandez has seen undocumented friends from his home neighborhood in Milwaukee struggle to fund a college education, with the lack of availability of federal grants and loans for undocumented students. As a college freshman, he learned of the gala initiative, which older students had already put in motion, talking to university administrators and gaining campus support.

“We have had a very diverse group working on this.” He explains that student support of the scholarship has extended beyond the Hispanic community, as it is available to undocumented students of any background. “We are working together to make this happen; this is a product of the minority community coming together.”

The group’s goal was to raise $50,000 over the course of a handful of years to fully endow the scholarship for long-term sustainability.

Members of the Ignacio Ellacuria, S.J., Dreamers Scholarship Gala Committee, including Eduardo Perea-Hernandez, bottom right.

During his winter break freshman year, Perea-Hernandez became involved in gala planning, translating promotional materials, creating introductory packets, and reaching out to local, state, and national individuals and groups for support—diving into grassroots mobilization and fundraising with fellow students. He eventually joined the organizing committee in rallying local media attention, recruiting student talent for a gala performance, and engaging student artists from other Milwaukee schools.

Lupe Serna, a sophomore in the College of Education, showcases her artwork as a representation of the obstacles encountered by undocumented students in higher education.

Perea-Hernandez was also uniquely positioned to gain support from the local Hispanic community, being one of the few organizers originally from Milwaukee. His approach pulled from his Jesuit values and social justice vision, and liberation theology. “We’ve learned that we can count on our own community support, our own people,” he explains. “The community rallies around this project to help students in Milwaukee with hopes and dreams of going to Marquette some day.”

Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Xavier Cole, shows his support for the Ignacio Ellacuria, S.J., Dreamers Scholarship with other community members.

The second gala was held in March of 2017, drawing more than 220 attendees and raising more than $30,000, allowing for the scholarship to be fully endowed in less than two years. Scholarships are small as the program grows, offering $1,000 and $2,000 annual scholarships, but Martinez Powless anticipates rapid expansion of the program in coming years. Qualifications are simple—applicants must be undocumented, demonstrate financial need, be academically high-achieving with leadership experience, and must submit an essay about how the scholarship would enhance their life.

[tweet_box design=”box_07″ float=”none”]This program sends a message of hope—as a #Jesuit university we support #undocumented students.[/tweet_box]

She is excited about the growing involvement of the Milwaukee community in gala and fundraising efforts, including business owners, immigration lawyers, and others. “This program sends a message of hope to undocumented students—that as a Jesuit university we support undocumented students.”

Eva Martinez Powless and Eduardo Perea-Hernandez at the 2017 gala.

In addition to Marquette administrators’ support of the scholarship, efforts of Martinez Powless’ programs and work from students on campus also led to a statement in support of undocumented students from Provost Dr. Daniel J. Myers and Dr. Xavier Cole, Vice President for Student Affairs.

Perea-Hernandez is equally optimistic. “Right now, it seems like we’re going in the right direction,” he shares. “We will continue to hold our campus and administrators accountable to Jesuit values. Equally, undocumented students have to continue to have space to tell their stories to get things done. Exposing yourself is scary, but it makes an impact—sharing these stories makes everything more relevant, more human.”

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network Voices for Justice blog series.


Unbelievably, my daughter has been on this earth for twenty-two months, inexplicably already closer to being two whole years old than to that tiny infant who came home from the hospital on a cool, rainy early summer day. One of her qualities that has emerged in that time is empathy: she is acutely attuned to other children in restaurants, at the park, in the airport terminal who are upset and crying. Verbal from an early age, she acknowledges them and often is not able to continue with whatever activity we have been doing until we can assuage her concerns, for example, by pointing out the child’s parents or rationalizing that the child is crying because she may be tired or hungry.

Though this empathy seems organic to her being, it is a quality that fits with the values that my husband and I have sought to teach her, or those that we hope we are modeling for her in our daily lives for her to learn in time. I have little doubt that the election and the events that have followed since November of last year would have sat heavy with me no matter my stage in life. Yet experiencing it as a parent has stung even deeper – not only as an endorsement of so many values and qualities that are the antithesis to my beliefs and work for justice – but as an antithesis to the values and morals I hope to instill in my daughter.  

As I struggled with how to react, it ultimately was my role as a parent that first pulled me up and forced me to be hopeful when at times I did not feel much hope. It started out as a simple affirmative response to a post in an online neighborhood mom’s group by another mom seeking others who were interested in becoming sponsors for a refugee family. We were matched with a Syrian couple with a toddler, a family composition that mirrored many of ours. Over the course of barely a few months, we worked to collect monetary donations; fully furnish an apartment; commit to a schedule of weekly mentoring visits to provide support once they arrived; and, as it got closer to the date in late January, stock the family’s kitchen in anticipation of their arrival.

But then on January 27, the family’s travel plans to arrive in Chicago just three days later were halted by the executive order suspending the U.S. refugee resettlement program. Instead of welcoming the “strangers” we had been preparing for, the apartment remained empty while the family remained in limbo. Due to the reach of social media, the family’s story quickly spread, most notably through a post by our group’s leader reproaching the executive order accompanied by a photo of an empty crib and stuffed bunny intended for the toddler in the family. It was that image of the empty crib that resonated with so many; for me, there was no way of not thinking of my own daughter, who slept warm and safe in a crib just like that one.  Nationality and circumstances seemed the only difference between my family and the refugee family we were cosponsoring.

The photo that accompanied a Facebook post by the leader of Lincoln Square Moms reproaching the executive order, which caught national attention. Photo credit: Rachel Zahorsky Thompson

Through the hard work of many and the grace of the TROs, the family arrived a little over a week later to the embrace of their extended family, to cheers – and some tears – from the resettlement organization and our co-sponsorship group (and also to the flashes and crush of media who had been following their journey). Since then, our group has had the privilege of not just assisting them with settling in the Chicago area, but spending time with and getting to know them and their extended family, as well as learning more about Syrian culture. Our visits often center around playdates between the family’s toddler and our own children.

Members of Lincoln Square Moms – and the infamous bunny – welcome a Syrian refugee family at O’Hare Airport on February 7, 2017. Photo credit: Marketa Lindt, a member of the pro bono counsel team for the family.

Each year, the season of Lent causes me to pause, to take stock of where I am at that time and, often, to look for guidance on what in my life may need some tweaking in preparation for Easter.  I did not come across it until halfway through the season, but this year, guidance came in the form of Pope Francis’ reflection on the story of Lazarus: it is a reminder for me to continue to take a cue from my daughter’s concern for the crying child at the park.  He writes, simply, that “[o]ther persons are a gift. A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value. … Each life that we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance, respect, and love.” Every person has value, no matter their background or circumstances.

Thankfully, my daughter – like many of the children of the other members of our co-sponsorship group – is too young to understand the current political climate or that anything has significantly changed about the world since November 8. Despite that fact, the very reason I felt a pull to join my neighbors in sponsoring a refugee family was to set an example of love, kindness, and inclusivity for her. Welcoming immigrants and refugees and seeing others we meet as a gift is precisely what I hope to instill in her already empathetic being. Especially in the last month, there has been post after post in various online parent groups to which I belong expressing horror and sadness at the images coming out of Syria, but unsure how to respond. It is achingly clear that Pope Francis’ message must permeate our actions far after Lent is over this year, and that our response must start with acceptance, respect, and love.

For an update on the family and hope for the Easter season, visit: Syrian refugee family finding its way in Chicago: ‘I’m trying to smile the way people smile here’

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network Just Parenting series.


“O LORD, hear my prayer,
And let my cry come to you.”

Today’s responsorial psalm resonates with the prayer I find myself repeating time and time again. Padre Amado, ampárame. In English, this means “Beloved Father, shelter me.” As a Dreamer from El Salvador and Central American migrant, I am reminded every week that our current immigration system is neither kind nor welcoming to people of color. Whether migrants, refugees, or asylum seekers, our communities are systematically targeted, detained, and set for deportation in huge numbers. In this process, our God-given humanities are compromised to justify our marginalization from American society.

In this time of anguish, I can only turn to my Creator who is bigger and greater than any system of oppression. He will shelter and comfort me at all times. My task, however, is never forget Him in my moments of insecurity and affliction. My challenge, indeed, is to remember that His Love for me is greater than any man-made injustice that seeks to marginalize me on account of my immigration status and country of origin. So, I exclaim once again Padre Amado, amapárame.

“He has regarded the prayer of the destitute and not despised their prayer” continues the psalm. In my heart, I know these prayers of mine are being kindly heard by my Beloved Father. For the time being, I am at ease; the Holy Spirit is at work.

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network Rise Up: A Lenten Call to Solidarity series.