posted on: Thursday September 14, 2017
By Sabrina Guilbeault ’18
On Sept. 5, after President Trump announced he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the Providence College community was greeted by an email from President Father Brian Shanley, O.P., who declared the stance PC is taking on the issue.
“As a Catholic institution, we reaffirm our commitment to welcome all qualified individuals to the Providence College community,” Fr. Shanley wrote, and emphasized that the College’s commitment to these students and their families will not waver. “It is imperative that they be allowed to reach their God-given potential and flourish in our community, as many of them are already doing.”
Students took action almost immediately after Trump’s announcement. In an effort to support those affected by DACA’s status, the executive boards of BMSA, BOP, Student Congress, Campus Ministry, and later Friars Club came together to plan a vigil to honor the “Dreamers.”
The vigil will occur this Sunday, September 17 at 8:15 p.m. on Slavin Lawn, and the entire campus community is encouraged to attend. Responsibilities and planning for the event were split up by the executive boards, which came together to show support for all students and their families during this uncertain time.
“We hope to encourage and promote a sense of belonging and unity throughout the campus,” the executives said in a written statement. “We believe in the power of leading by example and hope that our efforts will empower.”
“As soon as we heard the news about the end of the DACA program, we immediately thought it was important for the student leaders in Campus Ministry to be aware of the issue, and how it is an attack on the life and dignity of human beings and in contention with Catholic Social teaching,” Keith Lee, President of Campus Ministry Leadership said. “In our prayers and in discussing the issue with Father Peter Martyr and our leaders, we found it important to do something more and connect with PC community at large.”
This past Sunday, all mass collections at St. Dominic Chapel went to a relief fund for PC students affected by the termination of DACA, and these collections have continued at the daily masses throughout the week.
“It is important that PC does everything in its power to protect students who are affected by the end of DACA,” Lee said. “Not only should the school be there to help those in need of covering the various legal costs, but we should also provide emotional and loving support, reassuring all students, regardless of where they are from or what their documentation status is, that they are important members of our community who have so much to offer.”
Last Friday, September 8, the Dean of Student’s Office sponsored transportation to a “Defend DACA” rally, which was hosted by the Coalition of Advocates for Student Opportunities, at the Rhode Island State House. Students, faculty, and staff joined there along with other Rhode Islanders to support dreamers both from the College, the state, and beyond.
“There is so much more to being an American than the title of ‘citizen,’” said Gabriella Dess ’18, a student who attended the rally and stated she is a proud supporter of DACA. She explained that though people protected under DACA are not citizens of the United States, America is their home and they have proven a commitment and devotion to this country. “They deserve to live, learn, and grow in America, and it is wrong to deprive them of this opportunity,” she said.
“The DACA rally was an experience,” said Sean Richardson ’20. “It was amazing seeing people support people in such a time of uncertainty.”
Fr. Shanley insisted in his email that the College will continue to offer support to the Providence Immigration Rights Coalition (PIRC) to “meet the changing needs of our undocumented students, those with temporary protected status, our “dreamers,” and all those affected by this decision.” PIRC is a student-formed group of faculty, administrators, and students to strategize on responses to those who might be affected personally, or whose families might be affected, by the doing away with DACA.
“I feel it is vital that we take a stand in solidarity not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because it is what Christ compels us to do,” said Lee. He explained that the Church teaches that every human being has dignity, regardless of where they were born. “It is our obligation as Christians to protect human dignity and to take a stand when something threatens the life of any person and the dignity and unity of the family.”