Now is the time to pass the DREAM Act

Opinion: Columns

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By Donna Carroll

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In this season of hope and generosity, Dominican University joins colleague institutions across the country in advocating for the passage of the DREAM Act. This legislation highlights and affirms the talents, aspirations and contributions of thousands of undocumented youth currently pursuing higher education in the U.S. We in the academy are proud to welcome and educate these students — but the prospect is not sustainable without your support.

We cannot let the short-sighted repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) further compromise educational opportunities for these hard-working, resilient young adults. For five years, DACA has provided undocumented students with a temporary reprieve from deportation, along with access to work permits, driver's licenses, and a bit of security — and hope. 

In hindsight, it was a generous, but vulnerable Band-Aid. The DREAM Act is the healing solution. To repeal one, and not push through the other, would be a travesty.

At Dominican, with the university's support, and thanks to the generosity of donors and partner organizations, undocumented students comprise 5-10% of the undergraduate student body — and many more apply for admission each year. These are academically high-achieving students, who are often working several part-time jobs in order to help fund their college degrees. 

Catholic higher education has a particular obligation, in the context of mission, to advocate for the rights and dignity of these students, but numbers and experience suggest that it also makes good economic sense. In fact, it is well understood that education is the strongest catalyst for both professional success and civic engagement.

My involvement with the struggles of undocumented students began more than a decade ago with one student on a bicycle in a snowstorm. How else could he get to school without a driver's license, I learned. And then, I discovered the aspirations and frustrations of thousands of others, who, but for the circumstance of birth, have lived in limbo, with limited opportunity. For years, at campus events and rallies across Chicago, I have witnessed their courageous voices, their determined spirit — and now, the impact of our broken promises.

Imagine how you would feel if you were told that you did not belong — in the only place that you have ever lived, despite all that you have accomplished. Imagine having the ability but being denied the same chance as your friends to choose a college or launch a career. And just when you trust that the window of opportunity is opening a crack — bam. It crushes your fingers, and your hopes.

There are thousands of capable, industrious, undocumented students in our state and across the country dreaming of a better future. At Dominican, they graduate on time, with honors, and at high rates, ready and anxious to participate in our economy and the creation of a more just and humane world. It is time to put aside our differences, stop building political walls, and pass the DREAM Act. 

In this season of giving, it is the right, and decent, thing to do.

Donna M. Carroll is the president of Dominican University.

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