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Dominican University Support for Undocumented Students a Moral Imperative

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dominican University President Donna M. Carroll and a number of our current students and alumni have been featured in media throughout the country as voices of support for undocumented students wishing to create a better future for themselves through the pursuit of higher education.

This issue is not new, but it has seen renewed national attention in the wake of the upcoming presidential election, the passage of the Illinois DREAM Act and the federal government's announcement of deferred action for undocumented young people. While Dominican is by no means alone in supporting this cause, we are privileged to be seen as leaders in acting on the moral imperative to assist these students. 

Indeed, we see it as part of our mission to give compassionate service and to participate in the creation of a more just and humane world. 

Under the leadership of President Carroll and the Sinsinawa Dominicans and with the encouragement of the Archdiocese of Chicago, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, Dominican has opened its doors and private financial resources to deserving undocumented students. 

In the 2011-2012 school year, Dominican provided $274,000 in private financial aid to 17 undocumented students. This amount represents 1.5 percent of the $18 million in private institutional financial aid dispensed by the university last year. Undocumented students are not eligible for and do not receive federal- or state-financed aid.

Nearly all of this private support is given in the form of competitive, merit-based scholarships for which citizenship status is not a factor. Additional private support has come from donors seeking specifically to support these students. 

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed the Illinois DREAM Act into law in August 2011. This law provides for increased educational opportunities for children of immigrants in Illinois. At the bill signing ceremony, then-freshman Arianna Salgado spoke and was recognized with a standing ovation by the audience, including Governor Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. It is gratifying to see our students recognized for their leadership on this issue.

In June 2012, President Barack Obama announced the federal government's adoption of a deferred action process for young people brought to the country as young children. This action gives hope to many that comprehensive reform to the immigration issue is near. 

Even with this support, undocumented students face tremendous challenges in their journeys to productive and successful lives. In many cases, students were brought to this county as young children without individual knowledge or choice. These students have attended and graduated from American elementary and high schools, and they know the United States as their home country. In some cases, students have discovered their status only after beginning the financial aid process. 

While our university and many others throughout the country have recognized the sensitive nature regarding issues of immigration, we look to our moral values for guidance and our students for courage. In the words of President Carroll: "The students are the courageous leaders of this movement. The least we can do is to be courageous enough to stand next to them."