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Georgetown Continues to Voice Support for Rights of Undocumented Students

December 13, 2017  – The university made additional efforts this week to boost its support for its undocumented students and urge passage of the DREAM Act.

Yesterday, President John J. DeGioia became a founding member of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, a group of more than two dozen American higher education leaders working together to support federal and state policies that create a welcoming environment for immigrant, undocumented and international students.

DeGioia is also on a seven-member steering committee leading the Alliance.

Protecting Dreamers

The Georgetown University Faculty Senate also passed a resolution yesterday commending the institutional support the university is providing to undocumented students and supporting DeGioia’s call for passage of a long-term legislative fix to protect DREAMers.

Office of Campus Ministry, Georgetown University Student Association and the university's College Democrats recently delivered an additional 1,000 Friends of the DREAMers letters to Congress.

DREAMers are named for the proposed federal Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act), legislation authored by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) (SFS’66, L’69), which would grant lawful permanent resident status to undocumented individuals who arrived in the U.S. when they were children.

Rev. Olivia Lane, Brahmachari VraJvihari Sharan, Rev. Gregory Schenden, S.J., Rabbi Rachel Gartner, Rev. Bryant M. Oskvig and Imam Yahya Hendi stand in front of Dahlgren Chapel holding black t-shirts that say "We Are All Dreamers" on them.

Members of the Office of Campus Ministry recently helped deliver letters supporting the DREAM Act to members of Congress. From left to right are: Rev. Olivia Lane, chaplain for Christian Spiritual Formation; Brahmachari Vrajvihari Sharan, director for Hindu Life; Rev. Gregory Schenden, S.J., Roman Catholic chaplain; Rabbi Rachel Gartner, director for Jewish Life; Rev. Bryant M. Oskvig, McDonough School of Business Chaplain and director of Protestant Ministry; and Imam Yahya Hendi, director for Muslim Life.

In early November, Georgetown joined top universities in signing an amicus brief in a court case challenging the Trump administration’s rescission of a program protecting young immigrants.

Friend of the Court

The brief was submitted to the U.S. District Court in San Francisco in support of four consolidated lawsuits by the states of California, Maine, Massachusetts and Minnesota; the University of California; the city of San Jose; and individual affected plaintiffs.

The lawsuits assert that rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program, is unconstitutional.

The “friend of the court” brief submitted by Georgetown and 18 other universities asserts that rescinding the DACA program “deters young people from pursuing higher education,” “precludes the remarkable students enrolled at amici institutions from deriving the full benefit of their time on campus” and “forces countless future scholars, innovators and leaders to choose between withdrawing to the margins of our society and national economy or returning to countries that they have never called home.”

Highlighting Georgetown Students

Three remarkable undocumented students from Georgetown are mentioned in the brief – Cristina Velasquez (SFS’17), Juan Jose Martinez Guevara (SFS’20) and Luis Gonzalez (C’19).

Velasquez, an international politics major, graduates in December. She hopes to begin teaching underserved children next fall through Teach For America.

While at Georgetown, she spent two summers working with high-achieving, low-income middle school students.

Thanks to DACA

Students stand on the Capitol lawn with the Capitol building in the background holding up paper butterflies in support of Dreamers.

Georgetown students hold 500 paper butterflies in front of the Capitol Building in support of undocumented students and the DREAM Act. They also delivered 3,000 Friends of the DREAMers letters to Congress along with Georgetown members of the Office of Campus Ministry. Butterflies have become a symbol of the beauty of migration.

Guevara, an international politics major, wants to work for the federal government upon graduation.

“Thanks to DACA I can focus on my studies without worrying that it may all be taken away from me at any second,” he is quoted as saying in the brief. “I have always thought of myself as an American, but it is thanks to DACA that I can begin to truly feel like one, too."

Gonzalez, an American studies major, graduated from high school with a 4.69 grade point average and passing scores on all nine of the Advanced Placement exams that he took.

At Georgetown, he has served as the co-chair of the Hoya SAXA Weekend, which brings prospective students from underrepresented communities to Georgetown to experience a taste of campus life, and is the president of Stride for College, which helps local high school students apply for college by pairing them with mentors.

Longstanding Support

The action is part of Georgetown’s longstanding commitment to take action to support and protect undocumented students.

Many of those initiatives, including resources available to undocumented students and letters of support, can be found on a website listing resources for undocumented students.

Georgetown President John J. DeGioia has for many years advocated for passage of the DREAM Act, which would grant lawful permanent resident status to undocumented individuals who arrived in the U.S. when they were children.

In 2011, he testified in support of the DREAM Act before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, and earlier this month, joined three area college presidents and student leaders in making an urgent call for Congress to pass a bipartisan DREAM Act that would protect such students.

DeGioia also has testified in support of the DREAM Act before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security.

Georgetown students also joined Durbin on Capitol Hill this past September at the senator’s invitation to talk about the legislation.